Off Pelorus

Charles G.D. Roberts

Crimson swims the sunset over far Pelorus;
Burning crimson tops its frowning crest of pine.
Purple sleeps the shore and floats the wave before us,
Eachwhere from the oar-stroke eddying warm like wine.

Soundless foams the creamy violet wake behind us;
We but see the creaking of the labored oar;
We have stopped our ears,—mad were we not to blind us,
Lest our eyes behold our Ithaca no more.

See the purple splendor o'er the island streaming,
O'er the prostrate sails and equal-sided ship!
Windless hangs the vine, and warm the sands lie gleaming;
Droop the great grape-clusters melting for the lip.

Sweet the golden calm, the glowing light elysian.
Sweet were red-mouthed plenty mindless grown of pain.
Sweeter yet behold—a sore-bewildering vision!
Idly took we thought, and stopped our ears in vain.

Idly took we thought, for still our eyes betray us.
Lo, the white-limbed maids, with love-soft eyes aglow,
Gleaming bosoms bare, loosed hair, sweet hands to slay us,
Warm lips wild with song, and softer throats than snow!

See the King! he hearkens,—hears their song,—strains forward,—
As some mountain snake attends the shepherd's reed.
Now with urgent hand he bids us turn us shoreward,—
Bend the groaning oar now; give the King no heed!

Mark the luring music by his eyes' wild yearning,
Eager lips, and mighty straining at the cords!
Well we guess the song, the subtle words and burning,
Sung to him, the subtle king of burning words.

"Much-enduring Wanderer, wondrous-tongued, come nigher!
Sage of princes, bane of Ilion's lofty walls!
Whatsoe'er in all the populous earth befalls
We will teach thee, to thine uttermost desire."

So, we rise up twain, and make his bonds securer.
Seethes the startled sea now from the surging blade.
Leaps the dark ship forth, as we, with hearts grown surer,
Eyes averse, and war-worn faces made afraid,

O'er the waste warm reaches drive our prow, sea-cleaving,
Past the luring death, into the folding night.
Home shall hold us yet, and cease our wives from grieving,—
Safe from storm, and toil, and flame, and clanging fight.

From In Divers Tones.

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Added 22 November 2008.
Updated 22 November 2008.