The Lamp


Night and the sea; the firelight glowing;
We sit in silence by the hearth;
I musing, you beside me sewing,
We glean the long day’s aftermath.
After the romping surf, the laughter,
The salt and sun, the roaring beach,
These flames glancing on wall and rafter
Are tongues of pentecostal speech.
And while their whispers come and go, I
Turn to watch you in your grace,
My gallant, radiant, reckless Chloe,
Who love and lead me such a chase,
To find it vanished, that incessant
Fulfilment of the urgent Now:
For here, absolved from past and present,
There broods a girl I do not know.
The clear, the gay, the brilliant nature
Matching your body’s pride, gives place
To a soft, wavering change of feature:
This grave, remote and troubled face;
A face all women have in common
When, lost within them’selves, alone,
They hear the demiourgos summon
And draw their ocean like the moon.
The moon is up; the beaches glisten,
The land grows faceless as the sea;
And you withdraw and, while you listen,
Put on your anonymity.
I hear my pulses, as they travel,
Drop one by one to the abyss;
I feel the skein of life unravel
And ask in dread: who then is this ?
Who is this shade that sits beside me
And on what errand has she come:
To drive me on the dark, or guide me,
To tempt, or bring my spirit home ?
Or is she lost herself, uncertain
And helpless on that timeless track ?
Whichever way, I draw the curtain
And light the lamp that brings us back.

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