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Stopford Augustus Brooke: 1898

From English Literature from the Beginning to the Norman Conquest

 

 

The Old Man

 

Sooth the song that I of myself can sing,

Telling of my travels; how in troublous days,

Hours of hardship oft I've borne!

With a bitter breastcare I have been abiding:

Many seats of sorrow in my ship have known!

Frightful was the whirl of waves, when it was my part

Narrow watch at night to keep, on my vessel's prow

When it rushed the rocks along. By the rigid cold

Fast my feet were pinched, fettered by frost,

By the chains of cold. Care was sighing then

Hot my heart around; hunger rent to shreds within

Courage in me, me sea-wearied! This the man knows not,

He to whom it happens happiest on earth,

How I, carked with care, on the ice-cold sea,

Overwent the winter on my wander-ways,

All forlorn of happiness, all bereft of loving kinsmen,

Hung about with icicles; flew the hail in showers.

Nothing heard I there save the howling of the sea,

And the ice-chilled billow, whiles the crying of the swan!

All the glee I got me was the gannet's scream,

And the swoughing of the seal, 'stead of mirth of men;

Stead of the mead-drinking, moaning of the sea-mew.

There the storms smote on the crags, there the swallow of the sea

Answered to them, icy-plumed; and that answer oft the earn ---

Wet his wings were --- barked aloud.

... None of all my kinsmen

Could this sorrow-laden soul stir to any joy.

Little then does he believe who life's pleasure owns,

While he tarried in the towns, and but trifling balefulness, ---

Proud and insolent with wine --- how out-wearied I

Often must outstay on the ocean path!

Sombre grew the shade of night, and it snowed from nor'rard,

Frost the field enchained, fell the hail on earth.

Coldest of all corns.

 

The Young Man

 

Wherefore now then crash together

Thoughts my soul within that I should myself adventure

The high streamings of the sea, and the sport of the salt waves!

For a passion of the mind every moment pricks me on

All my life to set a faring; so that far from hence

I may seek the shore of the strange outlanders.

 

Old Man

 

Yes, so haughty of his heart is no hero on the earth,

Nor so good in all his giving, nor so generous in youth,

Nor so daring in his deeds, nor so dear unto his lord,

That he has not always yearning unto his sea-faring,

To whatever work his Lord may have will to make for him.

For the harp he has no heart, nor for having of the rings,

Nor in woman is his weal; in the world he's no delight,

Nor in anything whatever save the tossing of the waves!

O for ever he has longing who is urged towards the sea.

 

Young Man

 

Trees rebloom with blossoms, burghs are fair again,

Winsome are the wide plains, and the world is gay ---

All doth only challenge the impassioned heart

Of his courage to the voyage, whosoever thus bethinks him,

O'er the ocean billows, far away to go.

 

Old Man

 

Every cuckoo calls a warning, with his chant of sorrow!

Sings the summer's watchman, sorrow is he boding,

Bitter in the bosom's hoard. This the brave man wots not of,

Not the warrior rich in welfare --- what the wanderer endures,

Who his paths of banishment widest places on the sea.

 

Young Man

 

For behold, my thought hovers now above my heart;

O'er the surging flood of sea now my spirit flies,

O'er the homeland of the whale --- hovers then afar

O'er the foldings of the earth! Now again it flies to me

Full of yearning, greedy! Yells that lonely flier;

Whets upon the Whale-way irresistibly my heart,

O'er the storming of the seas!

 

*** *** ***

 

Excerpt from English Literature 1876. [BL 12201 g 7/1].

p.9: Old English poetry ....... The lines are short; the beat of the verse depends on the emphasis given by the use of the same letter, except in the case of vowels, at the beginnings of words; and the emphasis of the words depends on the thought.

 

Excerpts from English Literature 1896: Partly rewritten and largely revised and corrected.

p.5: The length of the lines depended on the nature of the things described, or the rise and fall of the singer's emotion; the emphatic words in which the chief thought lay were accented and alliterated, and probably received an additional force by the beat of the hand upon the harp.

p.6: When Tennyson used such adjectives as hollow-vaulted, dainty-woeful, he was returning to the custom of his ancient predecessors.

p.16: ...... The Seafarer, apparently a dialogue between an old and a young sailor about the dangers and fascination of the sea, breathes the spirit which filled the heart of our forefathers while they sang and sailed, and is extraordinarily modern in note. The blank-verse manner of Tennyson is in it, and the spirit of it is strangely re-echoed in The Sailor Boy.

 

 

[BL: 2308 b 31/5]

 

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