Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy

(14 March 1844 – 30 January 1881 / London)

Barcarolle


The stars are dimly seen among the shadows of the bay,
And lights that win are seen in strife with lights that die away.

The wave is very still -- the rudder loosens in our hand,
The zephyr will not fill our sail and waft us to the land;
O precious is the pause between the winds that come and go,
And sweet the silence of the shores between the ebb and flow.

No sound but sound of rest is on the bosom of the deep,
Soft as the breathing of a breast serenly hushed with sleep:
Lay by the ear; there is a voice at heart to sing or sigh --
O what shall be the choice of barcarolle or lullaby?

Say shall we sing of day or night, fair land or mighty ocean,
Of any rapturous delight or any dear emotion,
Of any joy that is on earth, or hope that is above--
The holy country of our birth, or any song of love?

Our heart in all our life is like the hand of one who steers
A bark upon an ocean rife with dangers and with fears;
The joys, the hopes, like waves or wings, bear up this life of ours --
Short as a song of all these things that make up all its hours.

Spread sail! For it is Hope today that like a wind new-risen
Doth waft us on a golden wing towards a new horizon,
That is the sun before our sight, the beacon for us burning,
That is the star in all our night of watching and of yearning.

Love is this thing that we pursue today, tonight, for ever,
We care not whither, know not who shall be at length the giver:
For Love, -- our life and all our years are cast upon the waves;
Our heart is as the hand that steers; -- but who is He that saves?

We ply with oars, we strive with every sail upon our mast --
We never tire, never fail -- and Love is seen at last:
A low and purple mirage like a coast where day is breaking --
Sink sail! for such a dream of Love is lost before the waking.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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