by Bernadette Weyde | June 22, 2014 12:19 am
Our land has fallen from her age of pride
And put her old divinity aside;
She is not now as in those storied days
When a strange beauty lit familiar ways,
When all the vivid life of hill and plain –
The reedy curraghs curtained with bright rain,
Rich lowland pastures where thick sunlight lies,
Deep-bosomed hills embracing cloudy skies,
Dark cliffs laced with spray of furious waves,
And quiet waters lapping in long caves –
All these but veiled a more enchanting land
Alight in every stone and grain of sand
With that still radiance the spirit knows
When the clear fire of life unbounded glows
Through all the visible world; when forgotten Powers
Cast ancient dreams forth from their hidden towers,
Till memories of the high ancestral race
Burned secretly in every lonely place.
In those far days our racial life was part
Of the wild, infinite life in the earth’s heart;
The stars were friendly to us, and the sea
Taught us its song of fathomless ecstasy –
All things were kin to us, and to our shore
The sea-folk and the fairies brought their store.
But now the Iron Age has us in its thrall,
The last pale gleams of wonder flick and fall;
Our dreams have faltered into weariness,
And all the land is dark and visionless,
No more our race is vigorous and gay,
Its old vitality has ebbed away;
We have forgotten our proud liberty,
And how our Isle was lit in mystery –
We have sold beauty for a worthless thing,
And killed the bird of joy upon the wing.
So deadened are we that we heed no more
How waves cry ceaselessly along the shore,
How sunsets flame and die over dark hills,
Or shadowy trees lean where swift water spills –
We turn away from these to coarser lights,
And fill with feverish toil our days and nights;
We hear no more the old, lonely voices cry:
Our soul is sick and blind: surely we die?
Yet is our land secretly proud and free,
Inviolate in timeless mystery;
No alien clamour breaks her inward peace,
And her strong spirit shall not fail nor cease.
The restless tides of being ebb and flow,
The changing races come and mix and go –
Unchanged the radiance in her being hides,
The ancient wonder lurks within her tides,
Her steadfast rocks remain a sanctuary,
Her hills are gateways to infinity.
We and all men are passing out of sight
Into the Dark that is the spring of light;
And when the time is full our island brood
Shall join the immortal shadowless multitude
Of vanished races dwelling within the earth,
Or under the sea, or where the winds have birth.
Then shall our Isle be known to us once more
Sacred and full of wonder as before:
The opening hills shall glow with hidden fire,
The swinging stars shall be a joyous choir,
The winds shall bring us in their shining net
Where the heroic age is living yet.
And here, when the unborn races enter in,
They shall be haunted too, by invisible kin:
Their growing consciousness shall take the mould
Of dreams innumerable that lived of old
In the glad hearts of the immortal Powers
Who fashioned Sun and Moon and the silver Hours –
Dreams that spring forth to breed in race on race
A spirit of unimaginable grace,
A fragment of eternal beauty caught
Beyond the darkling bounds of life and thought.
Always this ancient land shall be a shrine
Wherein her children touch the life divine
And wed their dreams to everlasting dreams
Till they are caught into those fiery streams
Wherein all races vanish, swept afar
To the dark depths where life’s last secrets are.
(source: ‘The Secret Island’ Poems and Plays in verse by Mona Douglas; photo)
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