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Seacoast Poems of John Albee



What avails the past to them? What avail
The placid stream, the lordly towering pines?
Ah, what de Chauncy, Sparhawk, Champernowne!
All passes! And they, with great they know not,
Commingled lie, and share with them one fate—
To be forgot.

So musing on my oar
I drifted past the ancient bridge and on
To that still place, near where, as from a hill,
The creek pours out its tide-filled cup two ways:
One the Atlantic hungrily devours,
The other swells thy flood, Piscataqua.
Then homeward turned beside the forest pines,
I heard that voice of ocean feminine,
The softer seas which murmur in their tops;
And soon the old familiar beat far off,
And soon the dark blue, clear and always pure,
Bathing the world, each day itself twice bathed,
Led by the tiring maiden moon at eve

And morn to crystal chambers of the deep.
Plunged in the tides I too would leave behind
The memory of mouldering greatness,
The forms of loud-tongued living wives and men.
O sharp asperities of mortal paths
That lead but hinder us from all we love!
Then who but sometimes backward walks, where hope

Obscured the thorny goal with too fierce light ;
Or soothes himself with joys, though lost, still his ;
Or countervails his life in other lives ?
And Mary Chauncy sleeping by the sea,
Its silent neighbor for a hundred years,
Daughter of long-descended Cambrian sires,
In sweet youth dead, dead in her first, last tears,
Still holds her lifeless babe on lifeless arm
And sits the pensive pilot of my boat,
When autumn days draw me in idle mood
To Chauncy Creek; and hers and Champernowne's
Are forms that lingering, linger my return.



Here poise, like flowers on flowers, the butterflies;
The grasshopper on crooked crutch leaps up,
The wild bees hum above the clover cup,
The fox-grape wreathes the fence in green disguise
Of ruin; and antique plants set out in tears,
Pink, guelder-rose, and myrtle's purple bells
Struggle 'mid grass and their own wasting years
To show the grave that no inscription tells.
Here rest the bones of Francis Champernowne;
The blazonry of Norman kings he bore;
His fathers builded many a tower and town,
And after Senlac England's lords. Now o'er
His island cairn the lonesome forests frown,
And sailless seas beat the untrodden shore.


Break not his sweet repose
Thou whom chance brings to this sequestered ground,

The sacred yard his ashes close,
But go thy way in silence; here no sound
Is ever heard but from the murmuring pines,

Answering the sea's near murmur;
Nor ever here comes rumor
Of anxious world or war's foregathering signs.

The bleaching flag, the faded wreath,
Mark the dead soldier's dust beneath,

And show the death he chose;
Forgotten save by her who weeps alone,
And wrote his fameless name on this low stone:
Break not his sweet repose.


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