ON GARRET HOSTEL BRIDGE.1

HERE in the evening curl white mists and wreathe in their vapour

All the gray spires of stone, all the immobile towers; {118A}

Here in the twilight gloom dim trees and sleepier rivers,

Here where the bridge is thrown over the amber stream.

Chill is the ray that steals from the moon to the stream that whispers

Secret tales of source, songs of its fountain-head.

Here do I stand in the dusk; like spectres mournfully moving

Wisps of the cloud-wreaths form, dissipate into the mist,

Wrap me in shrouds of gray, chill me and make me shiver,

Not with the Night alone, not with the sound of her wing,

Yet with a sense of something vague and unearthly stalking

(Step after step as I move) me, to annul me, quell

Hope and desire and life, bid light die under my eyelids,

Bid the strong heart despair, quench the desire of Heaven.

So I shudder a little; and my heart goes out to the mountain,

Rock upon rock for a crown, snow like an ermine robe;

Thunder and lightning free fashioned for speech and seeing,

Pinnacles royal and steep, queen of the arduous breast!

Ye on whose icy bosom, passionate, at the sunrise,

Ye in whose wind-swept hollows, lulled in the moonrise clear,

Often and oft I struggled, a child with an angry mother,

Often and oft I slept, maid in a lover’s arms.

Back to ye, back, wild towers, from this flat and desolate fenland,

Back to ye yet will I flee, swallow on wing to the south;

Move in your purple cloud-banks and leap your far-swelling torrents,

Bathe in the pools below, laugh with the winds above, {118B}

Battle and strive and climb in the teeth of the glad wild weather,

Flash on the slopes of ice, dance on the spires of rock,

Run like a glad young panther over the stony high-lands,

Shout with the joy of living, race to the rugged cairn,

Feel the breath of your freedom burn in my veins, and Freedom!

Freedom! echoes adown cliff and precipitous ghyll.

Down by the cold gray lake the sun descends from his hunting,

Shadow and silence steals over the frozen fells.

Oh, to the there, my heart! And the vesper bells awaken;

Colleges call their children; Lakeland fades from the sight.

Only the sad slow Cam like a sire with age grown heavy

Wearily moves to the sea, to quicken to life at last.

Blithelier I depart, to a sea of sunnier kindness;

Hours of waiting are past; I re-quicken to love.

1. A bridge on the Backs at Cambridge.

 

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