Alfred Noyes.

Collected poems, Volume 1 online

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SONG

The moon is up: the stars are bright:

The wind is fresh and free!
We're out to seek for gold UMiight

Across the silver sea!
The world was growing grey and old;

Break out the sails again!
We're out to seek a Realm of Gold

Beyond the Spanish Main.

We're sick of all the cringing knees.

The courtly smiles and lies.
God, let Thy singing Channel breeze

Lighten our hearts and eyes!
Let love no more be bought and sold

For earthly loss or gain.
We're out to seek an Age of Gold

Beyond the Spanish Main,

Beyond the light of far Cathay,

Beyond aU mortal dreams,
Beyond the reach of night and day

Our El Dorado gleams.
Revealing — as the skies unfold —

A star withmd a stain.
The Glory of the Gates of Gold

Beyond the Spanish Main.

And, as the skilled musician made the words
Of momentary meaning still simply
His own eternal hop^ and heart' desire,
Without belief, perchance, in Drake's own quest-^



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DRAKE



271



To Drake's own greater mind the eternal glory

Seemed to trans^[ure his immediate hope.

But Doughty only heard a sweet concourse

Of sounds. They ceased. And Drake resumed his tale

Of that strange flight in boyhood to the sea.

Next, the red-curtained inn and kindly hands

Of Protectant Plymouth held his memory long;

Often in strange and distant dreams he saw

That scene which now he tenderly portrayed

To Doughty's half-ironic smiling lips,

Half-sjrmpathetic eyes; he saw again

That small inn parlour with the homely fare

Set forth upon the table, saw the gang

Of seamen dripping fr6m the spray come in,

like great new thoughts to some adventurous brain.

Feeding his wide grey eyes he saw them stand

Around the crimson fire and stamp their feet

And scatter the salt drops from their big sea-boots;

And all that night he lay awake and heard

Mysterious thunderings of eternal tides

Moaniiig out of a cold and houseless gloom

Beyond the world, that made it seem most sweet

To slumber in a little four-walled inn

Immune from all that vastness. But at dawn

He woke, he leapt from bed, he ran and lookt.

There, through the tiny hig^ bright casement, there,—

O, fairy visioji of that small boy's face

Peeping at daybreak through the diamond panels

There first he saw the wondrous new-bom world.

And round its princely shoulders wildly flowing,

Gemmed with a myriad clusters of the sun.

The magic azure mantle of the sea.

And, afterwards, there came those marvellous days
When, on that battleship, a disused hulk
Rotting to death in Chatham Reach, they found
Sanctuary and a dwelling-place at last.
For, Hawkins, that great Bhip>-man, being their friend, '
A Protestant, with power on Plymouth town,
Nigh half whereof he owned, made Edmund Drake
Reader of prayer to all the ships of war



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272 DRAKE

That lay therein. So there the dreammg boy,

Francis, grew up in that grim nursery

Among the ropes and masts and great dumb mouths

Of idle ordnance. In that hulk he heard

Many a time his father and his friends

Over some wild-eyed troop of refugees

Thunder against the powers of Spain and Rome,

"Idolaters who defiled the House of God

In England;'' and all round them, as he heard,

The clang and clatter of shipwright hammers rang,

And hour by hour upon his vision rose,

In solid oak reality, new ships,

As nion rose to music, ships of war.

The visible shapes and symbols of his dream.

Unconscious yet, but growing as they grew,

A wondrous incarnation, hour by hour.

Till with their towering masts they stood complete,

Embodied thoughts, in God's own dockyards built,

For Drake ere long to lead against the world.

There, as to round the tale with ringing gold,

Across the waters from the full-plumed Swan

The music of a Mermaid roundelay —

Our Lady of the Sea, a Dorian theme

Tuned to the soul of England — charmed the moon.



SONG
I

Queen Venus wandered away with a cry,—

N^oeerez vous, mon bel amif —
For the purple wound in Aden's thigh;

Je VOU8 en prie, pity me;
With a bitter farewell from sky to sky,

And a moan, a moan, from sea to sea;
N'oaerez voua, mon bel, mon bely

N^osereg was, mon bel amif



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DRAKE 273

II

The soft ^ean heard her sigh, —

N'oaerez vowty mon bd omt'f—
Heard the Spartan hilk reply,

Je V0U8 en prie, pity me;
Spain was aware ol her drawing nigh

Foot-gilt from the blossoms of Italy;
N'oserez vous, mon bel, mon bd,

N'oserez vous, mon hd awxf



III

In France they heard her voice go by, —

N'oserez voua, mon bd amif —
And on the May-wind droop and die,

Je vau8 en yrie, pity me;
Your maidens choose their loves, but I —

White as I came from the foam-white sea,
N'oserez vous, mon bd, mon bd,

N^oaerez voua, mon bd amif —



IV

The warm red-meal-winged butterfly, —
N'oserez wme, mon bd amif —

Beat on her breast in the golden rye, —
Je votts en prie, pity me, —

Stained her breast with a dusty dye

Red as the print of a kiss might bel

N'oserez vovs, mon bd, mon bel,

N'osefBZ voiu, mon bd amif



Is there no land, afar or nigh —

N'oserez vous, mon bel amif —

But dreads the kiss o' the sea? Ah, why—

Je vous en prie, pity me I —
18



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274 DRAKE

Why will ye cling to the loves that die?

Is earth all Adon to my plea?
N'oserez vous, man bel, mon bely

N*08erez v<yu8, mon bel ami?

VI

Under the wann blue summer sky, —

N'oserez vauSy mon bel ami?
With outstretched arms and a low long sigh, —

Je vous en 'prie, pity me; —
Over the Channel they saw her fly

To the white-cliffed island that crowns the sea,
N'oserez vous, mon bel, mon bel,

N^oserez vous, mon bel ami?

VII

England laughed as her queen drew nigh, —

N^oserez vous, mon bel ami?
To the white-walled cottages gleaming high,

Je vous en prie, pity me !
They drew her in with a joyful cry

To the hearth where she sits with a babe on her knee,
She has turned her moan to a lullaby,

She is nursing a son to the kings of the sea,
N'oserez vous, mon bel, mon bel,

N'oserez vous, mon bel ami?

Such memories, on the plunging Golden Hynde,

Under the stars, Drake drew before his friend,

Clomb for a moment to that peak of vision,

That purple peak of Darien, laughing aloud

O'er those wild exploits down to Rio Grande

Which even now had made his fierce renown

Terrible to all lonely ships of Spain.

E'en now, indeed, that poet of Portugal,

Lope de Vega, filled with this new fear

Began to meditate his epic muse ' •

Till, like a cry of panic from his lips,

He shrilled the faint Dragontea forth, wherein

Drake is that Dragon of the Apocal3rpse,

The dread Antagonist of God and Man.



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DRAKE 275

Well had it been for Doughty on that night

Had he not heard what followed; for, indeed,

When two minds clash, not often does the less

Conquer the greater; but, without one thought

Of evil, seeing they now were safe at sea,

Drake told him, only somewhat, yet too much,

Of that close conference with the Queen. And lo,

The face of Doughty blanched with a slow thought

That crept like a cold worm through all his brain,

"Thus much I knew, though secretly, before;

But here he freely tells me as his friend;

If I be false and he be what they say.

His knowledge of my knowledge will mean death.''

But Drake looked round at Doughty with a smile

And said, "Forgive me now: thou art not used

To these cold nights at seal thou tremblest, friend:

Let us go down and drink a cup of sack

To our return I" And at that kindly smile

Doughty shook off his nightmare mood, and thought,

"The yard-arm is for dogs, not gentlemen I

Even Drake would not misuse a man of birth!"

And in the cabin of the Golden Hynde

Revolving subtle treacheries he sat.

There with the sugared phrases of the court

Bartering beads for gold, he drew out all

The simple Devon seaman's inmost heart.

And coiled up in the soul of Francis Drake.

There in the solemn night they interchanged

lies for sweet confidences. From one wall

The picture of Drake's love looked down on him;

And, like a bashful schoolboy's, that bronzed face

Flushed as he blurted out with brightening eyes

And quickening breath how he had seen her first.

Crowned on the village green, a Queen of May.

Her name, too, was Elizabeth, he said,

As if it proved that she, too, was a queen,

Though crowned with milk-white Devon may alone,

And queen but of one plot of meadow-sweet.

As yet, he said, he had only kissed her hand,

SmUed in her eyes and — there Drake also flinched.

Thinking, "I ne'er may see her face again."



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276 DRAKE

And Douc^ty comforted his own dark heart
Thinking, ''I need not fear so soft a soul
As this"; and yet, he wondered how the man.
Seeing his love so gripped him, none the less
Could leave her, thus to follow after dreams;
For faith to Doughty was an unknown word,
And trustfulness the property of fools.
At length they parted, each to his own couch,
Doughty with half a chuckle, Francis Drake
With one old-fashioned richly grateful prayer
Blessing all those he loved, as he had learnt
Beside his mother's knee in Devon days.

So all night long they sailed; but when a rift

Of orchard crimson broke the yellowing g}oom

And barred the closely clouded East with dawn,

Behold, a giant galleon overhead.

Lifting its huge black shining sides on high.

Loomed like some misty monster of the deep:

And, sullenly rolling out great gorgeous folds.

Over hf^r nunbled like a thunder-cloud

The heavy flag of Spain. The splendid poop,

Mistily lustrous as a dragon's hoard

Seen in some magic cave-mouth o'er the sea

Through shimmering April sunlight after rain.

Blazed to the morning; and her port-holes grinned

With row on row of cannon. There at once^

One sharp shrill whistle sounded, and those five .

Small ships, mere minnows clinging to the flanks

Of that Leviathan, imseen, unheard,

Undreamt of, grappled her. She seemed asleep,

Swinging at ease with great half-slackened sails,

Majestically careless of the dawn.

There in the very native seas of Spain,

There with the yeast and foam of her proud cliffs,

Her own blue coasts, in sight across the waves,

Up her Titanic sides without a soimd

The naked-footed British seamen swarmed

With knives between their teeth: then on her decks

They dropped like panthers, and the softly fierce

Black-bearded watch of Spaniards, all amazed,



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DRAKE 277

Rubbing their eyes as if at a wild dream,
Upraised a sudden shout, El Draque! El Draque!
And flashed their weapons out, but all too late;
For, ere their sleeping comrades reached the deck,
The little watch, out-numbered and out-matched,
Lay bound, and o'er the hatches everywhere
The points of naked cutlasses on guard
Gleamed, and without a struggle those below
Gave up their arms, their poignards jewelled thick
With rubies, and their blades of Spanish steel.

V

Then onward o'er the great grey gleaming sea

They swept with their rich booty, night and day.

Five other prizes, one for every ship.

Out of the seas of Spain they suddenly caught

And carried with them, laughing as they went —

"Now, now indeed the Rubicon is crossed;

Now have we singed the eyelids and the beard

Of Spain; now have we roused the hornet's nest;

Now shaU we sail against a world in arms;

Now we have nought between us and black death

But our own hands, five ships, and three score guns."

So laughed they, plimging through the bay of storms,

Biscay, and past Gibraltar, not yet clothed

With British thimder, though, as one might dream,

Gazing in dim prophetic grandeur out

Across the waves while that small fleet went by,

Or watching them with love's most wistful fear

As they plunged Southward to the lonely coasts

Of Africa, till right in front up-soared.

Tremendous over ocean, Teneriffe,

Cloud-robed, but crowned with colours of the dawn.

Already those two traitors were at work.
Doughty and his false brother, among the crews,
Who knew not yet the vastness of their quest,
Nor dreamed of aught beyond the accustomed world;
For Drake had kept it secret, and the thoughts
Of some that he had shipped before the mast
Set sail scarce farther than for Mogadore



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278 DRAKE

In West MoroccOi or at the utmost mark

For northern Egypt, by the midnight woods

And crystal palace roofed with chrysoprase

Where Prester John had reigned five hundred years.

And Sydon, river of jewels, through the dark

Enchanted gorges rolled its ra3rs along I

Some thought of Rio Grande; but scarce to ten

The true intent was known; while to divert

The rest from care the skilled musicians played.

But those two Doughtys cunningly devised

By chance-dropt words to breathe a hint abroad;

And through the foc'sles crept a grisly fear

Of things that lay beyond the bourne of earth,

Till even those hardy seamen almost quailed;

And now, at any whisper, they might turn

With terror in their eyes. They might refuse

To sail into that fabled burning Void

Or brave that primum mobile which drew

O'er-daring ships into the jaws of hell

Beyond the Pole Antarticke, where the sea

Rushed down through iiery mountains, and no sail

Could e'er return against its roaring stream.



Now down the coast of Barbary they cruised
Till Christmas Eve embraced them in the heart
Of summer. In a bay of mellow calm
They moored, and as the fragrant twilight brought
The stars, the soimd of song and dance arose;
And down the shores in stealthy silence crept,
Out of the massy forest's emerald gloom,
The naked, dark-limbed children of the night,
Unseen, to gaze upon the floating glare
Of revelry; unheard, to hear that strange
New music of the gods, where o'er the soft
Ripple and wash of the lanthom-crimsoned tide
Will Harvest's voice above the chorus rang.



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DRAKE 270

SONG

In Deinmshire, now, the Chriatmas chime

Is carolling over the lea;
And the sexton shovels away the snow

From the old church porch, maybe;
And the waits with their lanthoms and noses Orglow

Come round for their Christmas fee;
But, as in old England it's Christmas-time,

Why, so is it here at sea,
My lads,

Why, so is it here at sea!



When the ship comes home, from turret to poop

Filled fvU with Spanish gold,
There'll he many a country dance and joke,

And many a tale to be told;
Every old woman shaU have a red cloak

To fend her against the cold;
And every old man shall have a big round stoup

Of jolly good ale and old,
Afy lads,

JoUy good ale and old!



But on the morrow came a prosperous wind

Whereof they took advantage, and shook out

The flashing sails, and held their Christmas feast

Upon the swirling ridges of the sea:

And, sweeping Southward with fuU many a rouse

And shout of laughter, at the fall of day,

While the black prows drove, leapt, and plunged, and ploughed

Through the broad dazzle of sunset-coloured tides.

Outside the cabin of the Golden Hynde,

Where Drake and his chief captains dined in state,

The skilled musicians made a great new song.



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280 DRAKB

SONG

I

Bappy by the hearth sit the lasses and the lads, noWf

Roasting of their chestnvis, toasting of their toes!
When the door is opened to a blithe newcomer,

Stamping like a ploughman to shuffle off the snows;
Rosy flower-like faces through the soft red firelight

Float as if to greet us, far away at sea,
Sigh as they remember, and turn the sigh to laughter.
Kiss beneath the mistletoe and wonder at their glee.
WUh their ''heigh ho, the hoUyl
This life is most jolly!"
Christmas-time is kissing-time,
Away with melancholy!

II

Ah, the Yule of England, the happy Yule of England,

Yule of berried hoUy and the merry mistletoe;
The boafs head, the brown ale, the blue snapdragon,
Yule of groaning tables and the crimson log aglow!
Yule, the golden bugle to the scattered old companions.
Ringing as unth laughter, shining as through tears!
Loved of litUe children, oh guard the holy Yuletide,
Guard it, men of England, for the child beyond the years.
With its ''heigh ho, the holly!''
Away with melancholy!
Christmas-time is kissing-time,
" This life is most jolly!"

Now to the Fortunate Islands of old time

They came, and found no glory as of old

Encircling them, no red ineffable calm

Of sunset round crowned faces pale with bliss

Like evening stars. Rugged and desolate

Those isles were when they neared them, though afar

They beautifully smouldered in the sun

like dusky purple jewels fringed and frayed

With silver foam across that ancient sea



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DRAKE 281

Of wonder. On the largest of the seven

Drake landed Doughty with his musketeers

To exercise their weapons and to seek

Supplies among the matted uncouth huts

Which, as the ships drew round each ragged cliff,

Crept like remembered misery into sight;

Oh, like the strange dull waking from a dream

They blotted out the rosy courts and fair

Imagined marble thresholds of the King

Achilles and the heroes that ^ere gone.

But Drake cared nought for these things. Such a heart

He had, to make each utmost ancient bourne

Of man's imagination but a point

Of new departure for his Golden Dream.

But Doughty with his men ashore, alone.

Among the sparse wind-bitten groves of palm,

Kindled their fears of all they must endure

On that immense adventure. Nay, sometimes

He hinted of a voyage far beyond

All history and fable, far beyond

Even that Void whence only two returned, —

Columbus, with his men in mutiny;

Magellan, who could only hound his crew

Onward by threats of death, until they turned

In horror from the Threat that lay before,

Preferring to be hanged as mutineers

Rather than venture farther. Nor indeed

Did even Magellan at the last return;

But, with all hell around him, in the clutch

Of devils died upon some savage isle

By poisonous black enchantment. Not in vain

Were Doughty's words on that volcanic shore

Among the stunted dark acacia trees.

Whose heads, all bent one way by the trade-wind,

Pointed North-east by North, South-west by West

Ambiguous sibyls that with wizened arms

Mysteriously declared a twofold path,

Homeward or onward. But aboard the ships,

Among the hardier seamen, old Tom Moone,

With one or two stout comrades, overbore

All doubts and questionings with blither tales



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282 DRAKE

Of how they sailed to Darien and heard

Nightingales in November all night long

As down a coast like Paradise they cruised

Through seas of lasting summer, Eden isles,

Where birds like rainbows, butterflies like gems,

And flowers like coloured fires o'er fairy creeks

Floated and flashed beneath the shadowy palms;

While ever and anon a bark canoe

With naked Indian maidens flower-festooned

Put out from shadowy coves, laden with fruit

Ambrosial o'er the silken shimmering sea.

And once a troop of nut-brown maidens came —

So said Tom Moone, a twinkle in his eye —

Swinmiing to meet them through the warm blue waves

And wantoned through the water, like those nymphs

Which one green April at the Mermaid Iim

Should hear Kit Marlowe mightily portray,

Among his boon companions, in a song

Of Love that swam the sparkling Hellespont

Upheld by nymphs, not lovelier than these, —

Though whiter yet not lovelier than these —

For those like flowers, but these like rounded fruit

Rosily ripening through the clear tides tossed

From nut-brown breast and arm all roimd the ship

The thousand-coloured spray. Shapely of limb

They were; but as they laid their small brown hands

Upon the ropes we cast them. Captain Drake

Suddenly thundered at them and bade them pack

For a troop of naughty wenches! At that tale

A tempest of fierce laughter rolled around

The foc'sle; but one boy from London town,

A pale-faced prentice, run-away to sea.

Asking why Drake had bidden them pack so soon,

Tom Moone turned to him with his deep-sea growl,

"Because our Captain is no pink-eyed boy

Nor soft-limbed Spaniard, but a staunch-souled Man,

Full-blooded; nerved like iron; with a girl

He loves at home in Devon; and a mind

For ever bent upon some mighty goal,

I know not what — ^but 'tis enough for me

To know my Captain knows." And then he told



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DRAKE 283

How sometimes o'er the gorgeous forest gloom
Some marble city, rich, mysterious, white.
An ancient treasure-house of Aztec kings,
Or palace of forgotten Incas gleamed;
And in their dim rich lofty cellars gold,
Beyond all wildest dreams, great bars of gold,
Like pillars, tossed in mighty chaos, gold
And precious stones, agate and emerald,
Diamond, sapphire, ruby, and sardonyx.
So said he, as they waited the return
Of Doughty, resting in the foc'sle gloom,
Or idly couched about the sun-ewept decks
On sails or coils of rope, while overhead
Some boy would climb the rigging and look out,
Arching his hand to see if Doughty came.
But when he came, he came with a strange face
Of feigned despair; and with a stammering tongue
He vowed he could not find those poor supplies
Which Drake himself in other days had found
Upon that selfnsame island. But, perchance.
This was a barren year, he said. And Drake
Looked at him, suddenly, and at the musketeers.
Their eyes were strained; their faces wore a cloud.
That night he said no more; but on the morn.
Mistrusting nothing, Drake with subtle sense
Of weather-wisdom, through that little fleet
Distributed his crews anew. And all
The prisoners and the prizes at those isles
They left behind them, taking what they woidd
From out their carven cabins, — glimmering silks,
Chiselled Toledo blades, and broad doubloons.
And lo, as they weighed anchor, far away
Behind them on the blue horizon line
It seemed a city of towering masts arose;
And from the crow's nest of the Golden Hynde
A seaman cried, ''By God; the hunt is up I"
And like a tide of triumph through their veins
The red rejoicing blood began to race
As there they saw the avenging ships of Spain,
Eight mighty galleons, nosing out their trail.
And Drake growled,'' Oh, my lads of Bideford,



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284 DRAKE

It cuts my heart to show the hounds our heek;
But we must not emperil our great quest I
Such fights as that must wait — as our reward
When we return. Yet I will not put on
One stitch of sail. So, lest they are not too slow
To catch us, dear the decks. God, I would like
To fight them!" So the little fleet advanced
With decks all cleared and shotted guns and men
Bare-armed beside them, hungering to be caught,
And quite distracted from their former doubts;
For danger, in that kind, they never feared.
But soon the heavy Spaniards dropped behind;
And not in vain had Thomas Doughty sown
The seeds of doubt; for many a brow grew black
With suUeuHseeming care that erst was gay.
But happily and in good time there came,
Not from behind them now, but right in front,
On the first sun-down of their quest renewed.
Just as the sea grew dark around their ships,
A chance that loosed heart-gnawing doubt in deeds.
For through a mighty zone of golden haze
Blotting the purple of the gathering night
A galleon like a floating mountain moved
To meet them, clad with sunset and with dreams.
Her masts and spars immense in jewelled mist
Shimmered: her rigging, like an emerald web
Of golden spiders, tangled half the stars I
Embodied simset, dragging the soft sky
O'er dazzled ocean, through the night she drew
Out of the unknown lands; and round a prow
That jutted like a moving promontory
Over a cloven wilderness of foam.
Upon a lofty blazoned scroll her name
San Scdvador challenged obsequious isles
Where'er she rode; who kneeling like dark slaves
Before some great Sultlln must lavish forth
From golden cornucopias. East and West,
Red streams of rubies, cataracts of pearl.
But, at a signal from their admiral, all
Those five small ships lay silent in the gloom
Which, just as if some god were on their side.



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DRAKE 285

Covered them in the dark troughs of the waves,

Letting her pass to leeward. On she came,

Blazing with lights, a City of the Sea,

Belted with crowding towers and clouds of sail.

And roimd her bows a long-drawn thimder rolled

Splendid with foam; but ere she passed them by

Drake gave the word, and with one crimson flash

Two hundred yards of black and hidden sea

Leaped into sight between them as the roar

Of twenty British cannon shattered the night.


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Online LibraryAlfred NoyesCollected poems, Volume 1 → online text (page 16 of 26)