Dear exile from the hurrying crowd,
At work I muse to you aloud;
Thought on my anvil softens, glows,
And I forget our art has foes;
For life, the mother of beauty, seems
A joyous sleep with waking dreams.
Then the toy armoury of the brain
Opining, judging, looks as vain
As trowels silver gilt for use
Of mayors and kings, who have to lay
Foundation stones in hope they may
Be honoured for walls others build.
I, in amicable muse,
With fathomless wonder only filled,
Whisper over to your ear
Listening two hundred odd miles north,
And give thought chase that, were you here,
Our talk would never run to earth.

Man can answer no momentous question:
Whence comes his spirit? Has it lived before?
Reason fails; hot springs of feeling spout
Their snowy columns high in the dim land
Of his surmise - violent divine decisions
That often rule him: and at times he views
Portraits of places he has never been to,
Yet more minute and vivid than remembrance,
Of boyhood homes, sail between sleep and waking
Like some mirage, refuting all experience
With topsy-turvy ships,
That steals by in dead calms through tropic haze:
And many a man in his climacteric years,
Thoughts and remembered words have roused from sleep
With knowledge that he lacked on lying down:
And I, lapped in a trance of reverie, doubt
Some spore of episodes
Anterior far beyond this body's birth,
Dispersed like puffs of dust impalpable,
Wind-carried round this globe for centuries,
May, breathed with common air, yet swim the blood,
And striking root in this or that brain, raise
Imaginations unaccountable;
One such seems half-implied in all I am,
And many times re-pondered shapes like this:

A child myself I watched a woman loll
Like to a clot of seaweed thrown ashore;
Heavy and limp as cloth soaked in black dye,
She glooms the noontide dazzle where a bay
Bites into vineyarded flats close-fenced by hills,
Over whose tops lap forests of cork and fir
And reach in places half down their rough slopes.
Lower, some few cleared fields square on the thickets
Of junipers and longer thorns than furze
So clumped that they are trackless even for goats
I know two things about that woman: first
She is a slave and I am free, and next
As mothers need their sons' love she needs mine.
Longings to utter fond compassionate sounds
Stir through me, checked by knowing wiser folk
Reprobate such indulgence. Ill at ease,
Mute, yet her captive, I thrust brown toes through
Loose sand no daily large tides overwhelm
To cake and roll it firm and smooth and clean
As the Atlantic remakes shores, you know.
But there, like trailing skirts, long flaws of wind
Obliterate the prints feet during calms
Track over and over its always lonely stretch,
Till some will have, it ghosts must rove at night;
For folk by day are rare, yet a still week
Leaves hardly ten yards anywhere uncrossed;
Tempest spreads all revirginate like snow,
Half burying dead wood snapped off from tossed trees,
Since right along the foreshore, out of reach
Of furious driven waves, three hundred pines
Straggle the marches between sand and soil.
Like maps of stone-walled fields their branching roots
Hold the silt still so that thin grass grows there,
Its blades whitened with travelling powdery drift
The besom of the lightest breeze sets stirring.
That woman's gaze toils worn from remote years,
Yet forward yearns through the bright spacious noon,
Beyond the farthest isle, whose filmy shape
Floats faint on the sea-line.
I, scooping grains up with the frail half-shell
Pale green and white-lined of sea-urchin, knew
What her eyes sought as often children know
Of grief or sin they could not name or think of
Yet sooth or shrink from, so I saw and longed
To heal her tender wound and yet said naught.
The energy of bygone joy and pain
Had left her listless figure charged with magic
That caught and held my idleness near hers.
Resentful of her power, my spirit chafed
Against its own deep pity, as though it were
Raised ghost and she the witch had bid it haunt me.
What's more I knew this slave by rights should glean
And faggot drift-wood, not lounge there and waste
My father's food dreaming his time away.
For then as now the common-minded rich
Grudged ease to those whose toil brought them in means
For every waste of life. At length I spoke,
Insulting both my inarticulate soul
And her with acted anger: 'Lazy wretch,
Is it for eyes like yours to watch the sea
As though you waited for a homing ship?
My father might with reason spend his hours
Scanning the far horizon; for his Swan
Whose outward lading was full half a vintage
Is now months overdue.' She turned on me
Her languor knit and, through its homespun wrap,
Her muscular frame gave hints of rebel will,
While those great caves of night, her eyes, faced mine,
Dread with the silence of unuttered wrongs:
At last she spoke as one who must be heeded.
Truly I am not clear
Whether her meaning was conveyed in words
(She mingled accents of an eastern tongue
With deformed phrases of our native Latin)
Or whether thought from her gaze poured through mine.
The gravity of recollected life
Was hers, condensed and, like a vision, flashed
Suddenly on the guilty mind, a whole
Compact, no longer a mere tedious string
Of moments negligible, each so small
As they were lived, but stark like a slain man
Who would alive have been ourself with twice
The skill, the knowledge, the vitality
Actually ours. Yea, as a tree may view
With fingerless boughs and lorn pole impotent,
An elephant gorged upon its leaves depart,
Men often have reviewed an unwieldy past,
That like a feasted Mammoth, leisured and slow,
Turned its back on their warped bones. Even thus,
Momentous with reproach, her grave regard
Made me feel mean, cashiered of rank and right,
My limbs that twelve good years had nursed were numbed
And all their fidgety quicksilver grew stiff,
Novel and fevering hallucinations
Invaded my attention. So daylight
When shutters are thrown back spreads through a house;
As then the dreams and terrors of the night
Decamp, so from my mind were driven
All its own thoughts and feelings. Close she leant
Propped on a swarthy arm, while the other helped
With eloquent gesture potent as wizard wand,
Veil the world off as with an airy web,
Or flowing tent a-gleam with pictured folds.
These tauten and distend - one sea of wheat,
Islanded with black cities, borders now
The voluminous blue pavilion of day.
There-under to the nearest of those towns
This woman younger by ten years made haste
While at her side ran a small boy of six.
They neared the walls, half a huge double gate
Lay prostrate, though the other by stone hinges
Hung to its flanking tower. The path they followed
Threaded an old paved road whose flags were edged
With dry grass and dry weeds, even cactuses
Had pushed the stones up or found root in muck heaps:
The path struck up the slope of the fallen door,
Basalt like midnight, o'er which dusty feet
Had greyed a passage, for it rested on
Some d├ębris fallen from the left-hand tower,
And from its upper edge rude blocks like steps
Led down into the straight main street, that ran
Past eyeless buildings mined as it were from coal,
And earthquake-raised to light. Palaces and
Roofless wide-flighted colonnaded temples,
The uncemented walls piled-plumb with blocks
Squared, polished, fitted with daemonic patience.
Each gaping threshold high again as need be
Waited a nine-foot lord to enter hall,
Where the least draughty corner sheltered now
Half-tented hut or improvised small home
For Arab, brown, light-footed and proud-necked
As was this woman with the compelling voice.
Their present hutched and hived within that past
As bees in the parchment chest of Samson's lion;
And all seem conscious that their life was sweet,
Like mice who clean their faces after meals
And have such grace of movement, when unscared,
As