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. Kindred

    MUSING, between the sunset and the dark.
        As Twilight in unhesitating hands
        Bore from the faint horizon's underlands,
    Silvern and chill, the moon's phantasmal ark,
        Where that unalterable waste expands
        In sevenfold sapphire from the mournful sands,
    And saw beyond the deep a vibrant spark.

    There sank the sun Arcturus, and I thought:
        Star, by an ocean on a world of thine,
            May not a being, torn, like me, to die,
    Confront a little the eternal Naught
        And watch our isolated sun decline-
            Sad for his evanescence, even as I?

    George Sterling

. At the Grand Cañon

    THOU settest splendors in my sight, O Lord!
        It seems as though a deep-hued sunset falls
        Forever on these Cyclopean walls,—
    These battlements where Titan hosts have warred,
    And hewn the world with devastating sword,
        And shook with trumpets the eternal halls
        Where seraphim lay hid by bloody palls
    And only Hell and Silence were adored.

    Lo! the abyss wherein great Satan's wings
        Might gender tempests, and his dragons' breath
            Fume up in pestilence. Beneath the sun
    Or starry outposts on terrestrial things,
        Is no such testimony unto Death
            Nor altars builded to Oblivion.

    George Sterling

. A Legend of the Dove

       SOFT from the linden's bough,
    Unmoved against the tranquil afternoon,
       Eve's dove laments her now:
    "Ah, gone! long gone! shall not I find thee soon?"

       That yearning in his voice
    Told not to Paradise a sorrow's tale:
       As other birds rejoice
    He sang, a brother to the nightingale.

       By twilight on her breast
    He saw the flower sleep, the star awake;
       And calling her from rest,
    Made all the dawn melodious for her sake.

       And then the Tempter's breath,
    The sword of exile and the mortal chain—
       The heritage of death
    That gave her heart to dust, his own to pain….

       In Eden desolate
    The seraph heard his lonely music swoon,
       As now, reiterate;
    "Ah, gone! long gone! shall not I find thee soon?

    George Sterling

. Youth and Time

    ONCE as a boy I dreamed
    Where wider waters gleamed
    Of ships below
    The slowly gathering western stars,
    The last of sunset in their lofty spars
    And great winds urging to a harbor shown
    On charts of long ago
    And solitary oceans then unknown.

    The islands of their quest,
    Deep in the mystic west,
    I too would find
    And wed the daughter of a king.
    Almost I heard the distant cordage sing
    And saw the silvern light of that far foam,
    Born of a sea and wind
    That called me outward from my boyhood home.
    All that was long ago.
    How, hazardless, I know—
    Who knew not then
    How far the tides of Time would lead-
    That dream and mystery were mine indeed
    And mine the loss or victories of Chance.
    Seaward I gaze again
    And know that boyhood was the true romance.

    George Sterling

. The Aeroplane

    AFAR and high, on wings that feared no wind,
        The intrepid dragon of espial flew,
        Unseen at last within the housing blue,
    And o'er dim provinces at last inclined,
    Stared from the pinnacles of noon to find
        The plan and purpose of the war's review—
        What counsels launched, what jeopardies withdrew.
    The groping armies, ominous and blind.

    Then homed the watcher to its armored nest,
        Down the cold dome immense and desolate,
            Where clouds beleaguer and the sunlight chills—
    Death's herald, bearing to the anxious west
        The secret of the captains, and the fate
            Of legions hidden in the deadly hills.

    George Sterling

. Aldebaran at Dusk

    THOU art the star for which all evening waits—
        O star of peace, come tenderly and soon!
        As for the drowsy and enchanted moon,
    She dreams in silver at the eastern gates
    Ere yet she brim with light the blue estates
        Abandoned by the eagles of the noon.
        But shine thou swiftly on the darkling dune
    And woodlands where the twilight hesitates.

    Above that wide and ruby lake to-West
        Wherein the sunset waits reluctantly,
            Stir silently the purple wings of Night.
    She stands afar, upholding to her breast,
        As mighty murmurs reach her from the sea,
            Thy lone and everlasting rose of light.

    George Sterling

. The Battlefield at Night

    WHEN on war's wounded falls the final sleep,
        How beautiful shall silence be to those
        On whom till then the sounds of carnage close
    And tramping billows of the conflict sweep!
    A camp unsentineled that host shall keep,
        Nor countersign reveal its friends and foes;
        And In that zone of death shall be repose
    More kind than love, and than the dark more deep.

    But now unceasing thunders tread the night,
    'Mid flamings and cessations of the light.
        And the faint sense delays ere death to hark
            The bellowing of guns against the sky,
            And, as the decimating cannon cry,
        The mangled horses screaming in the dark.

    George Sterling

. Christmas Under Arms

    BY THE star that led kings to His feet in the night of His birth,
    Put ye no trust in kings not the mighty ones of the earth!
    Put ye no trust in prayer nor abase ye unto the Past—
    By the star of the mind alone shall your sons see dear at last!

    Who are we that we make its a feast, or say of the years, "They are ours!"
    As the lost might revel in Hell and bind their foreheads with flowers?
    Wherefore now are we glad, when the nations toil in their night,
    Seeking them battle-music and engines grievous to smite?

    A thousand masters are ours, and the weight or a thousand chains;
    We cease not this side death to seek new bondage and pains.
    Him that forgeth the shackles, him we acknowledge as lord,
    And darker over the burdened world falls the shadow of the sword.

    Cannon arraigneth cannon, and fort is answer to fort;
    Death sits silent and masked by the cliffs and dunes of the port;
    They gird themselves in the East to the day when their battleships go forth;
    And there comes no pause in the thunder of the forges of war in the North.

    Whither, O Man I say whither may the steel-girt highway lead!
    We have made of the past a shambles red and a place where vultures feed.
    Nay I must it ever be thus with the hope and promise of Life—
    Ever the agony, ever the waste and the hatred and blindness of strife?

    Which way we look is night, and the wind of a great unrest
    Moans on our high-built towers, and passes on to the West.
    Vague in the gloom before us move shadows vaster than man,
    And doubts lay hold on the human host and rumors trouble our van

    Have we budded but for the flame, and sown that Death may reap?
    Shall we give our morning to murder and our noon to eternal sleep?
    Answer, Thou who we dream dost abide in the gloom apart !—
    There is no answer, O Man ! except in the silence of thy heart!

    With thee alone is the answer, and the answer is "Love and Peace!"
    Except the message be heard, the bountiful years shall cease
    Except the message be honored, a curse shall come to the lands
    Where thou waitest on Christmas morning with a sheathless sword in thy hands!

    George Sterling

. The Gleaner

    OF ALL WE love or long for, what can last?
        The brief arbutus shines where shone the snow;
        The panic winds o'er dying flowers blow;
    Far in the quiet woodland dies the blast.
    Soft on the forehead of the hill are cast
        The fleeting splendors of the afterglow;
        Where sang the brook the desert lichens grow.
    Who runs, shall find the feet of Change are fast.

    Yet in the solitude of all that died
        A Shadow roams the somber fields, long known,
            Where ashen gardens house the pilgrim sands,
    And mournful stars behold at eventide
        How wanders peaceless Memory alone,
            Seeking in dust the vanished lips and hands.

    George Sterling

. The Homing of Drake

    Drake's Bay, September 29, 1579.

    WAS it the night that foiled his daring eyes,
    Or passed he in the blindness of the fog
    To-south, nor dreamt what keep of empire stood
    So near his grasp? I can but deem it strange
    That God withheld from England in that hour
    The incomparable haven, that His veils
    Were somehow on the insatiate sight of Drake,
    So that the land is not to-day her dow'r—
    She, fostered since by all His winds and tides I
    For then, as now, the Port lay vast with peace,
    The hills were wardens of the far-sought gold,
    And streams were glad in valleys unprofaned,
    Rich as that France she harried. Had he seen,
    In time his tale had set her out-post here,
    Guard of the coast forever. But his eyes
    Were holden. and our waters checked him not—
    For leagues beyond the grey and desolate Gate
    Stained from swart rivers! Saw he not the clue?—
    Nay, blind to empire sundered from his sight,
    He passed, the intrepid, and the Golden Hind,
    A waif in hostile deserts of the deep,
    Fled homeward, to such issues as are told,
    When but a glance, or quickening of the sense,
    Had shattered thrones, and rent the bourns of rule,
    And broken crownéd fames, and swerved the course
    Of all the tides of conquest round the world.

    The Fates have mighty darkness at their seats,
    Nor use revealing stars. Wherefore to us
    Time's sea is strange, nor learn we to what Law
    Our needle veers, nor witness, for the Dark,
    What Shapes inscrutable stand at the helm,
    Nor whence (amazed) the ordaining winds that urge
    Our keels to harbors other than we dream.

    George Sterling

. The Huntress of Stars

    TELL me, O Night! what horses hail the moon!
        Those of the sun rear now on Syria's day,
        But here the steeds of Artemis delay
    At heavenly rivers hidden from the noon,
    Or quench their starry thirst at cisterns hewn
        In midnight's deepest sapphire, ere she slay
        The Bull, and hide the Pleiades' dismay,
    Or drown Orion in a silver swoon.

    Are those the stars, and not their furious eyes,
        That now before her coming chariot glare?
            Is that their nebulous, phantasmal breath
    Trailed like a mist upon the winter skies,
        Or vapors from a Titan's pyre of death—
            Far-wafted on the orbit of Altair?
    The third of "Three Sonnets of the Night Skies"

    George Sterling

. The Islands of the Blest

    IN CARMEL pines the summer wind
    Sings like a distant sea.
    O harps of green, your murmurs find
    An echoing chord in me!

    On Carmel shore the breakers moan
    Like pines that breast a gale.
    O whence, ye winds and billows, flown
    To cry your wordless tale?

    Perchance the crimson sunsets drown
    In waters whence ye sped;
    Perchance the sinking stars go down
    To seek the Isles ye fled.

    Sometimes from ocean dusks I seem
    To glimpse their crystal walls,
    Dim jewels of mirage that gleam
    In twilight's western halls.

    Sometimes I hear below the moon
    A music that pursues—
    A wraith of melody, that soon
    I doubt, and douhting, lose.

    Those palmy shores no prow may find,
    But once it seemed to me
    A ghost of fragrance roamed the wind.
    Yet was not of the sea.

    What tho' my tale the seaman scorns?
    The Chart of Dreams, unrolled,
    Attests their haven's jasper bourns,
    Their reefs of sunken gold.

    I do not know what lonely strands
    Await the wing éd star;
    I only know their evening sands
    Seem wonderful and far.

    George Sterling

. The "Lusitania"

    ABOVE her grave the dipping sea-gulls cry
        To swift companion or to tireless mate;
        The impassive sea lies blue and desolate,
    Whose vacant shires reflect the vacant sky;
    And ocean-winds pass on without a sigh,
        Fugitive, aimless, uncompassionate.
        Below, for witnesses of bestial hate,
    The bones and memories of our murdered lie.

    For do we still remember? Now the year
        Brings back the date of their unhappy day,
            And still the butcher and his lords go free—
    Go free, nor trouble to conceal the sneer
        For us whose irresponsive hearts betray
            The vast indifference of heaven and sea.

    George Sterling

. Night on the Mountain

    THE fog has risen from the sea and crowned
        The dark, untrodden summits of the coast,
        Where roams a voice, in canyons uttermost,
    From midnight waters vibrant and profound.
    High on each granite altar dies the sound,
        Deep as the trampling of an armored host,
        Lone as the lamentation of a ghost,
    Sad as the diapason of the drowned.

    The mountain seems no more a soulless thing,
        But rather as a shape of ancient fear,
            In darkness and the winds of Chaos born
    Amid the lordless heavens' thundering—
        A Presence crouched, enormous and austere,
            Before whose feat the mighty waters morn.

    George Sterling

. On a Western Beach

    FAR out, hulls down, the ships go by;
    North, south, they pass, by night or day;
    There, where the ocean meets the sky,
    The canvas gleams, the tall masts sway.

    Intrepid, whose adventure finds
    No lasting peace for sail or prow—
    Unto what oceans and what winds,
    O stranger ship, advancest thou ?

    The tempest and the night descend
    In which no truthful star may warn;
    There waits no beacon to befriend
    Where southward looms the bitter Horn.

    But will is at the guarded wheel —
    Decision at the managed sail,
    To hurl the javelin of thy keel
    Against the billow and the gale.

    The tides and winds on that design
    Converge, indifferent at best;
    The fog's invasion blots the sign,
    Slow sinking in the midnight west.

    Thou sailest by another Star—
    A solemn and unsetting Fire—
    That sun of purpose, high and far,
    To which intrepid hearts aspire-

    George Sterling

. To Ambrose Bierce

    MASTER, when worms have had their will of thee,
        And thou art but a voice along the years—
        A star in the companionship of spheres
    That are Fame's firmament—may God decree
    That song and song's hostilities shall be
        A sword within my hands, a flame that sears
        The liar's mouth that slanders thee, nor fears
    The vengeances of Truth's supremacy!

    O Fates that on the tomb of greatness dead
        Permit the viper and the toad to bask,
            Lend me your youngest lightnings, and impel
        My spirit as a whirlwind to the task
    To char the liar's tongue within his head—
            Like ashes on the adamant of Hell!

    George Sterling

. The Black Vulture

    ALOOF upon the day's immeasured dome,
        He holds unshared the silence of the sky.
        Far down his bleak, relentless eyes descry
    The eagle's empire and the falcon's home—
    Far down, the galleons of sunset roam;
        His hazards on the sea of morning lie;
        Serene, he hears the broken tempest sigh
    Where cold sierras gleam like scattered foam.
    And least of all he holds the human swarm—
        Unwitting now that envious men prepare
            To make their dream and its fulfillment one,
    When, poised above the caldrons of the storm,
        Their hearts, contemptuous of death, shall dare
            His roads between the thunder and the sun.

    George Sterling

. Night Sentries

    EVER as sinks the day on sea or land,
    Called or uncalled, you take your kindred posts.
    At helm and lever, wheel and switch, you stand,
    On the world's wastes and melancholy coasts.
          Strength to the patient hand!
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
          May there by Light!

    Now roars the wrenching train along the dark;
    How many watchers guard the barren way
    In signal-towers, at stammering keys, to mark
    The word the whispering horizons say!
          To all that see and hark --
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
          May there be Light!

    On ruthless streets, on byways sad with sin --
    Half-hated by the blinded ones you guard --
    Guard well, lest crime unheeded enter in!
    The dark is cruel and the vigil hard,
          The hours of guilt begin.
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
          May there be Light!

    Now storms the pulsing hull adown the sea:
    Gaze onward, anxious eyes, to mist or star!
    Where foams the heaving highway blank and free?
    Where wait the reef, the berg, the cape, the bar?
          Whatever menace be,
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
          May there be Light!

    Now the surf-rumble rides the midnight wind,
    And grave patrols are on ocean edge.
    Now soars the rocket where the billows grind,
    Discerned too late, on sunken shoal or ledge.
          To all that seek and find,
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
          May there be Light!

    On lonely headlands gleam the lamps that warn,
    Star-steady, or ablink like dragon eyes.
    Govern your rays, or wake the giant horn
    Within the fog that welds the sea and skies!
          Far distant runs the morn:
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
          May there be Light!

    Now glow the lesser lamps in rooms of pain,
    Where nurse and doctor watch the joyless breath,
    Drawn in a sigh, and sighing lost again.
    Who waits without the threshold, Life or Death?
          Reckon you loss or gain?
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
          May there be Light!

    Honor to you that guard our welfare now!
    To you that constant in the past have stood!
    To all by whom the future shall avow
    Unconquerable fortitude and good!
          Upon the sleepless brow
    Of each, alert and faithful in the night,
          May there be Light!

    George Sterling


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