Selected Writings of Wm Sharp, Vol. 1, Poems






I love and worship thee in that thy ways
Are fair, and that the glory of past days
     Haloes thy brightness with a sacred hue.
Within thine eyes are dreams of mystic things,
Within thy voice a subtler music rings
     Than ever mortal from the keen reeds drew;
Thou weav'st a web which men have callèd Death
But Life is in the magic of thy breath.

The secret things of Earth thou knowest well;
Thou seest the wild bee build his narrow cell,
     The lonely eagle wing through lonely skies,
The lion on the desert roam afar,
The glow-worm glitter like a fallen star,
     The hour-lived insect as it hums and flies
Thou seest men like shadows come and go,
And all their endless dreams drift to and fro.

In thee is strength, endurance, wisdom, truth:
Thou art above all mortal joy and ruth,
     Thou hast the calm and silence of the night:
Mayhap thou seest what we cannot see,
Surely far off thou hear'st harmoniously
     Echoes of flawless music infinite,
Mayhap thou feelest thrilling through each sod
Beneath thy feet the very breath of God.

Monna Natura, fair and grand and great,
I worship thee, who art inviolate:
     Through thee I reach to things beyond this span
Of mine own puny life, through thee I learn
Courage and hope, and dimly can discern
     The ever noble grades awaiting man:
Madonna unto thee I bend and pray---
Saviour, Redeemer thou, whom none can slay!

No human fanes are dedicate to thee,
But thine the temples of each tameless sea,
     Each mountain-height and forest-glade and plain:
No, priests with daily hymns thy praises sing,
But far and wide the wild winds chanting swing,
     And dirge the sea-waves on the changeless main,
While songs of birds fill all the fields and woods,
And cries of beasts the savage solitudes.

Hearken, Madonna, hearken to my cry;
Teach me through metaphors of liberty,
     Till strong and fearing nought in life or death
I feel thy sacred freedom through me thrill,
Wise, and defiant, with unquenched will
     Unyielding, though succumb the mortal breath---
Then if I conquer, take me by the hand 
And guide me onward to thy Promised Land!


O tears that well up to my eyes,
    And vague thoughts wandering thro' my brain,
Whence come ye? From what alien skies,
    From what dim sorrow, what strange pain?

I hear old memories astir
    In dusky twilights of the past:
O voices telling me of her,
    My soul, whom now I know at last:

I know her not by any name,
    But she with hope or fear is pale;
I see her ere this body came
    From mortal womb with mortal wail.

Later and later through long years,
    Through generations of dead men,
I see her in her mist of tears,
    I see her in her shroud of pain.

I see her whom the æons have raised
    From one dim birth to endless life;
I see her strive, regain, re-fail
    Forever in the endless strife.

I see her, soul of man, and soul
    Of woman, and in many lands:
Her eyes are fixt on some far goal
    But she hath neither thrall nor bands.

On one day yet to come I see
    This body pale and cold and dead:
The spirit once again made free
    Hovers triumphant overhead.

Again, again, O endless day,
    I see her in new forms pace on,
And ever with her on the way
    Fair kindred souls in unison.

O wandering thoughts within my brain,
    O voices speaking low to me,
O·music sweet with stingless pain,
    Bring clear the vision that I see!

O·ecstasy of sound, O pain!
    Too sad my heart, too sad the tears
It bringeth to my eyes again,
    Too strange the hopes, too strange the fears.


If the soul withdraweth from the body, what profit
thereafter hath a man of all the days of his life?

She died indeed, but to him her breath
Was more than a light blown out by death:
He knew that they breathed the self-same air,
That not midst the dead was her pale face fair
But that she waited for him somewhere.

To some dead city, or ancient town,
Where the mouldering towers were crumbling down,
Or in some old mansion habited
By dust and silence and things long dead,
He knew the Shadows of Souls were led.

For years he wandered a weary way,
His eyes shone sadder, his hair grew grey
But still he knew that she lived for whom
No grave lay waiting, no white carv'd tomb,
No earthly silence, no voiceless gloom.

But once in a bitter year he came
To an old dying town with a long dead name:
That eve, as he walked thro' the dusty ways
And the echoes woke in the empty place,
He came on a Shadow face to face.

It looked, but uttered no word at all
Then beckoned him into an old dim hall:
And lo, as soon as he passed between
The pillars with age and damp mould green
His eyes were dazed by a strange wild scene.

A thousand lamps fill'd the place with light,
And fountains glimmered faerily bright
But never a single sound was heard,
The dreadful silence was never stirred,
Not even the breath of a single word

Came from the shadowy multitude,
More dense than leaves in a summer wood,
Than the sands where the swift tides ebb and flow;
But ever the Shades moved to and fro
As windless waves on the sea will go.

Then he who had come to the Shadow-land
Swift strode by many a group and band;
But never a glimpse he caught of her,
In fleeting shadow or loiterer,
For whom the earth held no sepulchre.

He knew that she was not dead whom he
So loved with bitterest memory,
To whom through anguish'd years he had prayed;
Yet came she never, no sign was made,
No touch on his haggard frame was laid.

At last to an empty room he came
And there he saw in letters of flame
"This is a palace no king controls,
A place unwritten in human scrolls,---
This is the Haunt of Shadowed Souls:

"If thy Shadow-soul be here no more,
Seek thine old life's deserted shore:
And there, mayhap, thou wilt find again,
Recovered now through sorrow and pain;
The Soul thou didst thy most to have slain."


"To suffer grief is to be strong,
And to be strong is beautiful and rare"-----
'Twas in thy court, O Love, I learned it there,
     This sad sweet song!

No one man dwells thy ways among,
Who shall not learn thy thousand ways of grief
Or how wild fears succeed each poor relief
     In dark'ning throng:

There too a man may learn to put away
The crownèd summit of his heart's desire;
But O, the bitter burning of love's fire---
     Its bitterer ashes grey!


While sways the restless sea
   Beyond the shore,
And the waves sing listlessly
   Their secret lore,
And the soft fragrant air
    From off the deep
Scarce stirs thine outspread hair,---

Far up in purple skies
   Great lamps hang out,
White flames that fall and rise
   In motley rout;
While fall their silvern rays
   O'er crag and steep,
Woodlands and meadow-ways,---

While the moon's amber gleams
   Gild rock and flow'r,
Let no untimely dreams
    Possess the hour:
Let no vague fears the heart
   'Mid slumber keep,
In dreams love hath no smart,---


She, brooding ever, dwells amidst the hills;
    Her kingdom is call'd Solitude; her name---
    More terrible than desolating flame---
    Is Silence; and her soul is Pain.
Day after day some weightier sorrow fills
   Her heart, and each new hour she knows
        The birth of further woes.
        And whoso, journeying, goes
Unto the land wherein she dwells for aye
Shall not come thence until have passed away
   For evermore the bright joy of his years.
   She giveth rest, but giveth it with tears,
        Tears that more bitter be
        Than drops of the Dead Sea:
But never gives she peace to any soul
   For how could she that rarest gift bestow
        Who well doth know
That though in dreams she can attain the goal,
   In dreams alone her steps can thither go:---
   Solitude, Silence, Pain, for all who live
        Within the twilit realms that are her own,
        And even Rest to those who seek her throne,
               But these her gifts alone
Peace hath she not and therefore cannot give.


When the beech-trees are green in the woodlands,
    And the thorns are whitened with may,
And the meadow-sweet blows and the yellow gorse blooms
        I sit on a wind-waved spray,
        And I sing through the livelong day
    From the golden dawn till the sunset
        comes and the shadows of gloaming grey.

And I sing of the joy of the woodlands,
    And the fragrance of wild-wood flowers,
And the song of the trees and the hum of the bees
         In the honeysuckle bowers,
         And the rustle of showers
    And the voice of the west wind calling as
       through glades and green branches he scours.

When the sunset glows over the woodlands
    More sweet rings my lyrical cry,
With the pain of my yearning to be 'mid the burning
        And beautiful colours that lie
        'Midst the gold of the sun-down sky,
    Where over the purple and crimson and
         amber the rose-pink cloud-curls fly.

Sweet, sweet swells my voice thro' the woodlands,
    Repetitive, marvellous, rare:
And the song-birds cease singing as my music goes ringing
        And eddying echoing there,
        Now wild and now debonair,
Now fill'd with a tumult of passion that
  throbs like a pulse in the hush'd warm air!


What is a bird but a living flower?
A flower but the soul of some dead bird?
And what is a weed but the dying breath
Of a perjured word ?

A flower is the soul of a singing-bird,
Its scent is the breath of an old-time song
But a weed and a thorn spring forth each day
For a new-done wrong.

Dead souls of song-birds, thro' the green grass,
Or deep in the midst of the golden grain,
In woodland valley, where hill-streams pass,
We flourish again.

We flowers are the joy of the whole wide earth,
Sweet nature's laughter and secret tears--
Whoso hearkens a bird in its spring-time mirth
The song of a flow'r-soul hears!


For miles along the sunlit lands
We sway in waves of gold,
A yellow sea that past the strands
Has inland rolled.

The sweet dews feed us thro' the night,
The soft winds blow around;
The dayshine gladdens us with light
And stores the ground.

We feed a thousand happy birds,
The field-mice have their share--
Surely to these the reaping swords
Some grains can spare.

The deep joy of the joyous earth,
We feel it throb and thrill;
The sweet return of natural mirth,
Spring's miracle.

All lands rejoice in us, we have
A glory such as kings
Might envy-but our gold we wave
For humbler things.

Our golden harvest is for those
Who strive and toil through life,
Who feel its agonies, its throes,
Its want, its strife.

O'er all the broad lands 'neath the sun,
We spring, we ripen, glow;
The seasons change, the swift days run,---
Again we grow.


When the moon shines o'er the corn
And the beetle drones his horn,
And the flittermice swift fly,
And the nightjars swooping cry,
And the young hares run and leap,
We waken from our sleep.

And we climb with tiny feet
And we munch the green corn sweet
With startled eyes for fear
The white owl should fly near,
Or long slim weasel spring
Upon us where we swing.

We do no hurt at all:
Is there not room for all
Within the happy world?
All day we lie close curled
In drowsy sleep, nor rise
Till through the dusky skies
The moon shines o'er the corn,
And the beetle drones his horn,


I come from out the West,
And I breathe a breath of rest,
And the sweet birds greet me singing
From every tiny nest.

I am the wind of flow'rs--
I haunt the wild-wood bow'rs--
And when my song is ringing
Spring knows her sweetest hours.

But when the autumn days
Grow short, I rise and race
Thro' all the woodlands, flinging
Strewn leaves o'er every place.

When winter comes once more,
With deep tumultuous roar
I sweep o'er ocean, bringing
Wild tempests to each shore.


We are the harps which the winds play,
A myriad tones in one vast sound
That the earth hearkens night and day--
A ceaseless music swaying round
The whole wide world, each voiceful tree
Echoing the wave-chants of the sea.

For even as inland waves that moan
But break not 'midst the unflowing green
Our trees are: and when tempests groan
And howl our frantic boughs between,
Our tumult is as when the deep
Struggles with winds that o'er it sweep.

'Neath bitter northern skies we stand,
Silent amidst the unmelting snows,
Gaunt warders of the desolate land
Silent, save when the keen wind blows
The drifting wreaths about our feet,
Then moan we mournful music sweet.

Or in vast ancient woods of beech
Far south we make Spring's dearest home
The haunt of myriad songsters, each
A living flow'r made free to roam
From bough to bough, and thence we send
A forest-music without end.

'Neath tropic suns and ceaseless glow
With orient splendours we are filled:
'Midst Austral solitudes we grow,
Where seldom human voice has thrilled:
And ever and where'er we rise
We chant our ancient harmonies.

For aye the sea sings loud and long
In strange and solemn mystery
A wonderful transmitted song--
The echo of all history--
This song o'er all earth's lands we sing
While round the circling seasons swing.


Wide, open, free, unbounded, vast,
We leagueless stretch the wide world o'er
Above us sweeps the desert blast,
Or booms the lion's reverberate roar
Or the long howl of wolves that race
Like shadows o'er the moonlit space
In tireless, swift, relentless chase.

We are the haunt of all the winds,
O'er us as o'er the sea they sweep
In boundless freedom: each blast finds
A leagueless waste whereo'er to leap
And race unchecked,---and day and night
We hear the wild rush of their flight,
A desert-music infinite.

Ten thousand leagues of grassy plain
We stretch, or trackless wastes of sand
O'er us no mortal king doth reign,
But Bedouin or savage band
And wild-eyed beasts of prey alone
Wander about our tameless zone;
That bondage never yet hath known.


(A Fragment)

For, God wot, not the less a thing is true
Though every wight may not it chance to see.


I hear the dark tempestuous sea
Boom through the night monotonously,
The hoarse faint cry of breaking waves
Lashed by the wind that moans and raves
Upon the deep-I hear them fall
Against cliff-bases smooth and tall,
A music wild, funereal.

I seem to listen to a sound
That circles earth for ever round,
The dirge of an eternal song,
A dull deep music swept along
The listening coasts of many lands,
Sighed mournfully o'er level sands,
Or thunder'd amidst rocky strands.

I sit within my lonely room
Where the lamp's flame just breaks the gloom,
And thro' the darkness of the night
I see far down a starry light
Where nestled safely in the chine
The village street in one long line
Doth like a glittering serpent shine.

The keen wind blows through the dark skies,
The stars look down like countless eyes
That see and know, and therefore stare
Unmoved 'midst their serene high air:
And life seems but a dream, a shade
Which fleeting Time o'er space hath laid,
But which with Time shall one day fade.

Old memories are mine once more,
I see strange lives I lived of yore;
With dimmed sight see I far-off things,
I feel the breath of bygone springs,
And ringing strangely in mine ears
I hear old laughter, alien tears
Slow falling, voices of past years.

Far back the soul can never see--
But dreams restore mysteriously
Dim visions of a possible past,
A time ere the last bond was cast
Aside that bound the struggling soul
Unto the brute, and first some goal
Loomed dimly over Life's vast shoal.

And dreaming so I live my dream:
I see a yellow turbid stream
Heavily flowing through clustered weeds
Of tropic growth, and 'midst the reeds
Of tall green rice upon its bank
A crouching tiger, long and lank,
With slow tail swaying from flank to flank.

Its eyes are yellow flames, and burn
Upon a man who dips an urn
Into the Ganges' sacred wave,
Unknowing he has reached his grave--
A short, hoarse roar, a scream, a blow!
And even as I shudder, lo,
My tiger-self I seem to know.

And dreaming so I live my dream:
I see a sunrise glory gleam
Against vast mountain-heights, and there
Upon a peak precipitous, bare,
I see an eagle scan the plain
Immeasurable of his domain,
With fierce untamable disdain:

When first the stars wax pale his eyes
Front the wide east where day doth rise,
And with unflinching gaze look straight
Against the sun, then proud, elate,
On tireless wings he swoops on high
O'er countless leagues, and thro' the sky
Drifts like a dark cloud ominously:

Then as day dies and swift night springs,
I hear the sudden rush of wings
And see the eagle from the plain
Sweep to his eyrie once again
With fierce keen dauntless eyes aglow--
And even as I watch them, lo,
Mine eagle-self I seem to know.

And dreaming so I live my dream:
I hear a savage voice, a scream
Scarcely articulate, and far
I see a red light like a star
Flashed 'neath old trees, and the first fire
Made by the brutish tribe burn higher
Until unfed its flames expire:

I see the savage whose hand drew
The fire from wood, whose swift breath blew
The flame until it gained new strength,--
I see him stand supreme at length,
And pointing to the burning flame
Bend low his swart and trembling frame
And cry aloud a guttural name:

A god at last the tribe hath found,
A god at whose strange crackling sound
Each man must bend in dread until
This strange new god hath worked his will:
But lo, one day the fire spread fast,
And ere its fury is o'erpast
The tribe within its furnace-blast

Hath perish'd, save one man alone
Who far in sudden fear hath flown:
But with a gleam of new-born thought
A second flame he soon hath wrought
Only to tramp it down, aware
At last that no dead god lies there,
Or one for whom no man need care.

He looks around to see some god,
And far upon the fire-scorch'd sod
He sees his brown-burnt tribesmen lie,
And thinks their voices fill the sky,
And dreads some unseen sudden blow---
And even as I watch him, lo,
My savage-self I seem to know.

And dreaming so I live my dream:
I see a flood of moonlight gleam
Between vast ancient oaks, and round
A rough-hewn altar on the ground
Weird Druid priests are gatherèd
While through their midst a man is led
With face that is already dead:

A low chant swells throughout the wood,
Then comes a solemn interlude
Ere loudlier rings dim aisles along
Some ancient sacrificial song ;
Before the fane the victim kneels
And without sound he forward reels
When the priest's knife the death-blow deals:

The moonlight falls upon his face,
His blood is spatter'd o'er the place,
But now he is ev'n as a flow'r
Uprooted in some tempest hour,
Dead, but whose seed shall elsewhere grow:
And as I look upon him, lo,
Some old ancestral-self I know.

Thus far dreams bring mysteriously
Visions of past lives back to me;
Visions alone perhaps they arc,
Each one a wandering futile star
Flash'd o'er the mental firmament,---
Yet may be thus in past times went
My soul in gradual ascent.

None sees the slow sure upward sweep
By which the soul from life-depths deep
Ascends--unless, mayhap, when free
With each new death we backward see
The long perspective of our race,
Our multitudinous past lives trace
Since first as breath of God through space

Each came, and filled the lowest thing
With life's faint pulse scarce quivering;
So ever onward upward grew,
And ever with each death-birth knew
An old sphere left, a mystic change---
A sense of exaltation strange
Thus through a myriad lives to range.

But even in our mortal lives
At times the eager spirit strives
To gain through subtle memories
Some hint of life's past mysteries---
Brief moments they, that flash before
Bewilder'd eyes some scene of yore,
Some vivid hour returned once more.

Swift through the darken'd clouds of sense
A sudden lightning-gleam intense
Reveals some glimpse of the long past,
Some memory comes back at last---
And yet 'twas but a sudden strain
Of song-a scent-a sound of rain---
Some trifle--made all clear again.

With a swift glance such glimpses come
And go--but there are times for some
When keen the vision is, so keen
That thenceforth the indelible scene
Remains within the mind for aye,
Some reminiscence sad or gay,
Some action of a bygone day.

Thus came to me memorious gleams
From the closed past, no sleep-brought dreams
But revelations flashed out swift
Upon the mind: a sudden lift
Of the dense cloud of all past years,---
A moment when the thrilling ears
Heard, or the eyes slow filled with tears.

Thus has there flashed across my sight
A desert in a blinding light
Of scorching sun, a dreary waste
Of burning sand where seldom paced
The swift, gaunt camels with their freight
Of merchandise, but where the weight
Of silence lay inviolate.

There a few sterile rocks lay white
In the sun's glare, a band by might
Of old convulsions thither hurl'd
In the far days of the young world:
And in their midst a hollow cave
Was cleft, where dwelt, as in a grave,
One who came thence his soul to save.

Young, and from out the joyous strife
Of men he came to this drear life:
No more for him the wine's swift spell,
No more for him love's miracle---
But bitter as the dead sea's dust
Seem'd all past joys---dread things to thrust
Aside, all equally accursed.

In fervid prayer all day he sought
God's grace: in dreams at night he fought
The fierce temptations born of youth.
Awake, he strove to reach God's truth---
Asleep, he felt his passions rise
And darken all the heav'nly skies
With dread deceitful lovely lies.

Thus year by year he fell and rose
In endless conflict, till his woes
Fill'd all his days with burning tears
And dreadful never-ending fears:
Haggard he grew from scanty food,
With sun and blast and shelter rude
And terrors of his lonelihood.

With long hair streaming out behind
He raced before the burning wind,
With wild insane strained eyes alert
For demons lurking to his hurt---
And though the sun beat fiercely hot
Upon the sands, he heeded not
But like a wand'ring shadow shot

Across the burning level waste,
Oft shouting as he wildly raced
"My body is in hell, but I,
Its soul, thus hither speed and cry
To God to blow me as a leaf
From out this agony of grief,
To slay, and give me death's relief!"

Oft as he fled, with from his mouth
The white froth blown thro' maddening drought,
He pass'd the crouching lion's lair---
But when his shrill laugh fill'd the air
The desert monarch shrank, as though
He feared this raving shadow's woe,
This haggard wretch with eyes aglow.

But when the sun sank past the west
The hermit fled the desert, lest
God's eyes should lose him in the night,
And foes Satanic guide his flight
Till soul and body once again
Made one should with the pangs of twain,
In hell for ever writhe in pain.

But when sleep came to him he lay
In peace, and oft a smile would play
Upon his face as though once more
In dreams he lived his life of yore,---
The life he did himself dismiss,
The old sweet time of joy and bliss,---
Heard laughter, or felt some loved kiss.

Thus have I seen, and seeing known
That he who lived afar alone,
A hermit on a dreary waste,
Was even that soul mine eyes have traced
Through brute and savage steadily,
That he even now is part of me
Just as a wave is of the sea.

* * * *

Far out across the deep doth swell
The hoarse boom of the Black-Rock bell,
A heavy moan monotonous,
An inner sea-sound ominous,
As though throughout the ocean there
Relentless Conscience aye did bear
A bitter message of despair.

Still sweeps the old impetuous sea
Around the green earth ceaselessly
Changeless, yet full of change, it seems
The very mirror of those dreams
We call men's lives---for are not they
Like life-sea waves Fate's winds doth sway
And break, yet which pass not away

Through depth of silent air, but blend
Once more with the deep and lend
Their never dying music sweet
To the great choral song complete
Each death is but a birth, a change
Each soul through myriad by-ways strange,
Through birth and death, doth upward range.


Here, where in dim forgotten days
A savage people chanted lays
To long since perished gods, I stand
The sea breaks in, runs up the sand,
Retreats as with a long-drawn sigh,
Sweeps in again; again leaves dry
The ancient beach, so old and yet
So new that as the strong tides fret
The island barriers in their flow
The ebb-hours of each day can know
A surface change. The day is dead,
The sun is set, and overhead
The white north stars shine keen and bright
The wind upon the sea is light
And just enough to stir the deep
With phosphorescent gleams and sweep
The spray from salt waves as they rise
And yonder light---is't from the skies
Some meteor strange, a burning star---
Or a lamp hung upon a spar
Of vessel undescribed? It gleams
And rises slowly, till it seems
A burning isle, an angel-throne
Reset on earth, a mountain-cone
Of gold new-risen from sea-caves---
Until at last above the waves
Salt with Atlantic brine, it swims
A silver crescent. Now no hymns
In the wild Runic speech are heard,
No chant, no sacrificial word:
But only moans the weary sea,
And only the cold wind sings free,
And where the Runic temples stood
The bat flies and the owl doth brood.


A more than twilight darkness dwells
Upon the long lagoons: the bells
Of distant Venice come and go
Like sounds in dreams; the tide's soft flow
Sweeps onward, and a wandering gull
Flits o'er the track of yon black hull
Just fading in the gloom---no more
I see or hear 'tween shore and shore
But as I lie and dreamily
Watch the dark water from the sea
Slip past the boat, in its blurred sky
I see the crescent moon on high
Casting curv'd golden flakes far down
Amidst the calm lagoon--- crown
Broken innumerably up,
The gold bands of a broken cup.
I take an oar and make a rift
In the soft tide of the lagoons,--
And lo, the blade itself doth lift
A score of quivering crescent moons,
And as they flash I seem to see
Each droplet with a small moon flee.


The huge white icebergs silently
Voyage with us through this lonely sea,
Noiseless and lifeless, yet they seem
Like haunted islands in a dream
Holding strange secrets that no one
May know and live. In the bright sun
They shine immeasurably fair,
Bluer than bluest summer air,
Or clear to the very heart with green
Pure light, or amethyst as seen
'Mid sunset-clouds-but now they shine
With a cold gleam and have no sign
Of loveliness. The ship swings on,
Plunging 'mid surging seas whereon
Few vessels ever sail, and as
Slowly the long hours come and pass
The late moon rises cold and white,
And sends a flood of wintry light
Along the sweeping waves and round
Our black and sea-worn hull. A sound
Far off dies while it grows some seal
Long-drifted, frozen, waking but to feel
Death's grip. And now the spectral isles
Grow whiter, icier still, and seem
More hollow, with a strange weird gleam
As though some pale unreal fires
Consumed them to their utmost spires
Yet without flame or heat. And still
The moon doth rise, and seems to fill
Each berg anew with life: we sail
Upon a strange sad sea, where pale
And moonshine isles float all around,
Voyaging onward without sound.