Prodigal Song


I WILL arise and turn my face unto the morning.
I will arise, arise and go away!
I sicken of idle praise and idle scorning
And chambers close shut against the day;
And empty-shrilling, meaningless laughter.
And weak tears following after,
And unfaith and unreality alway!
Last night, as on my pillow I lay dreaming,
I heard the swift whir of gusty wings.
I heard sea gulls to their gray mates screaming,
As of old, where the wild south current swings
Caught the old tang, the salt perfuming,
Of the Sea’s glorious spuming
When on the shore the joyous tide he flings.
I saw the great billows landward rolling,
Rolling and thundering to the strand;
Heard the hoarse buoy funeral-tolling
O’er the graves of sailors blest or banned;
And the thin echo, faint replying,
As of ghosts of mariners dying
Who turn their souls shoreward to the land.
I saw the swift spears of shining grasses
Clash in the radiance of the noon;
Watched how the shadow of clouds passes,
Caught the quick diving of the loon;
Saw the sun sink in twilight vapors,
The pale Night light her tapers,
Laved in the full glory of the moon.
Midnight came on with gusty groaning,
With sound of the far and driving gale;
And then — on my pillow I lay moaning,
With dawn in the casement, foul and pale!
On my sick thought memories stirring
Of all that is hope-deferring
And nauseous and lean of joy and stale!
Oh! for the old life, strong and fearless!
Oh! for what is honest, free and wild!
The old days, be they bright or cheerless,
The old sleep, sound as that of a child!
For a soul washed clean in the good gale’s blowing,
For the sound of God coming and going,
And all that is pure and undefiled!
Give me of pastures for my tilling,
Toil of the uplands hot and gray;
For joy, strain of the sail slacking and filling
And the bright waves dancing in the bay.
Oh! for a man’s work and a man’s duty!
And one still brow of beauty . . .
I will arise, arise and go away!