Louise Bogan





Putting to Sea

Who, in the dark, has cast the harbor-chain? 
This is no journey to a land we know. 
The autumn night receives us, hoarse with rain ; 
Storm flakes with roaring foam the way we go. 

Sodden with summer, stupid with its loves, 
The country which we leave, and now this bare 
Circle of ocean which the heaven proves 
Deep as its height, and barren with despair. 

Now this whole silence, through which nothing breaks, 
Now this whole sea, which we possess alone, 
Flung out from shore with speed a missile takes 
When some hard hand, in hatred, flings a stone. 

The Way should mark our course within the night, 
The streaming System, turned without a sound. 
What choice is this --- profundity and flight ---
Great sea? Our lives through we have trod the ground. 

Motion beneath us, fixity above. 

"O, but you should rejoice! The course we steer 
Points to a beach bright to the rocks with love, 
Where, in hot calms, blades clatter on the ear; 

And spiny fruits up through the earth are fed 
With fire; the palm trees clatter; the wave leaps. 
Fleeing a shore where heart-loathed love lies dead 
We point lands where love fountains from its deeps. 

Through every season the coarse fruits are set 
In earth not fed by streams." Soft into time 
Once broke the flower : pear and violet, 
The cinquefoil. The tall elm tree and the lime 

Once held out fruitless boughs, and fluid green 
Once rained about us, pulse of earth indeed. 
There, out of metal, and to light obscene, 
The flamy blooms burn backward to their seed. 

With so much hated still so close behind 
The sterile shores before us must be faced; 
Again, against the body and the mind, 
The hate that bruises, though the heart is braced. 

Bend to the chart, in the extinguished night 
Mariners! Make way slowly; stay from sleep; 
That we may have short respite from such light 

And learn, with joy, the gulf, the vast, the deep.