As once I sat upon the shore
by Christopher Pearse Cranch
There came to me a fairy boat,
A bark I never saw before,
Whose coming I had failed to note,
Wrapped in my studies conning rules of life by rote.
The stern was fashioned like a heart;
The curving sides like Cupid's bow.
And from the mast, which like a dart
Was winged above and barbed below,
A pennon like an airy stream of blood did flow.
Upon the prow on either side
Was carved a snowy Paphian dove.
Between, reflected in the tide
An arching swan's neck rose above
The deck o'erspread with broidered tapestries of love.
Against the mast the idle sail
Flapped like a lace-edged valentine.
It seemed a canvas all too frail,
Should winds arouse the sleeping brine.
A toy the boat appeared, for sport in weather fine.
And so I stepped, in idle mood,
Aboard the bark — when suddenly
A breeze sprang up: and while I stood
Uncertain, thinking I was free
To make retreat, the vessel bore me out to sea.
Silent and swift away from land
It cut the waves. No pilot steered.
No voice of captain gave command.
Yet to and fro it tacked and veered.
All day it flew. At eve a distant land appeared.
An island in the restless seas,
With rosy cliffs, and gold and green
Of dappled fields, and tropic trees,
With trailing vines and flowers between,
Across the purple waves through amber skies was seen.
And music floating from afar
I heard, of voice and instrument
As the sun sank, and star by star
Throbbed in the living firmament;
And all kind fates seemed pledged to cheer me as I went.
Till in a deep and shadowy bay
The little argosy, self-furled,
Self-anchored, in the silence lay,
And landed me upon a world
By other stars and a moons endiamonded, impearled.
A region to my student's nooks
Unknown — where first I leaned to see
That love is never conned from books,
Nor passion taught by fantasy —
But in the living, beating heart alone can be.
For on that shore a maiden stood,
Who smiled with sympathetic glance,
And when I pressed her hand, and wooed,
Turned not her truthful eyes askance,
And proved my voyage was no idle sport of chance.
Ah, from this island if I veer
Into the seas of worldly strife,
Give me the bark that brought me here,
Where now the tried and faithful wife
Year after year renews the lover's lease of life.