I REMEMBER a night, of my youth, I remember a night
The earth and the sea were a shadow, but over me opened
Heaven into uttermost heaven, and height into height
With stars, with stars, with stars!
I remember the dew on my face, I remember the mingled
Homely smell of grass and unearthly beauty
Out of the ends of the air and the unsealed darkness
Poured in a rain, in a river,
Into my marrow — through all the veins of delight
Poured into me.
O the divine solitude! the intoxicating silence!
I was a spirit unregioned, worthy of them:
I, even I, was a creature of infinite flight,
Born to be free.
In the midst of the worlds, as they moved, I moved with them all,
A sense and a joy; I was hidden, and yet they were nigh;
For they came to me as lovers,
Those stars from on high.
Thus as my whole sold drank of the star-filled air,
I felt, more than heard, like a whisper
Invading me out of immensity, hinted, haunting
Of waves, of waves, of waves.
And I felt in the blood of my flesh, to the roots of my hair,
That it sought me, a mind in that muteness;
In the midst of the worlds I trembled,
I in the night, a mortal,
What was I, what was I? Nothing
But a Moment aware
Of the ruins of Time!
Yet a memory of memories within me, from far, O from far,
From shadow effaced behind shadow, from dust under dust,
From burial of realm under realm (even t here, even there),
From the den in the hungering forest, from ancientest lair,
Rose to claim
This my body, the sap of its veins and its secret to share;
To emerge with the star-watching eyes of the venturer, Man.
And my spirit was filled with its meaning; it knew whence it came;
For I was the word on Earth’s lips
That she needed to name.
‘But tell me,’ I cried, ‘O whispering, troubling waves,
Tell me, O journeying wildernesses of stars,
Why do you near me and choose me? Whither would you lure me,
The earth-child?’
— To be brimmed with desire overflowing the bounds of the world,
To be wingless and stretched on a longing that boundlessly craves,
Who has known not this, in the bloom of a midnight marveling
Earth-exiled ?
But thus to be sought from afar by phantom waves,
In the still of the night, to be neared by stooping stars,
As if all immensity sought for a home in the mind
At its core —
This draws my whole being up from its secret caves,
And the flesh is no longer a home, nor can comforting Earth
Shelter me more.
I am known to the Unknown; chosen, charmed, endangered;
I flow to a music ocean-wild and starry,
And feel within me, for this mortality’s answer.
Sea without shore.