To Helen

(After Valery)


O Sea! ... 'Tis I, risen from death once more
To hear the waves' harmonious roar
And see the galleys, sharp, in dawn's great awe
Raised from the dark by the rising and gold oar.

My fickle hands sufficed to summon kings
Their salt beards amused my fingers, deft and pure.
I wept. They sang of triumphs now obscure:
And the first abyss flooded the hull as if with falling wings.

I hear the profound horns and trumpets of war
Matching the rhythm, swinging of the flying oars:
The galleys' chant enchains the foam of sound;
And the gods, exalted at the heroic prow,
E'en though the spit of spray insults each smiling brow,
Beckon to me, with arms indulgent, frozen, sculptured,
and dead long long ago.

by Delmore Schwartz

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