Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE VANISHING BOAT, by EDMUND WILLIAM GOSSE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE VANISHING BOAT, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: He is dying, - / he is dying in england in the clammy heat
Last Line: Farewell, my friend!
Subject(s): Death; Sidgwick, Henry (1838-1900); Dead, The

He is dying, --
He is dying in England in the clammy heat,
And, in the quiet room where he is lying,
The coverlet is white from head to feet,
Like this white fjord beneath this milky sky.
I sit, and almost see him die.
Here where the tender evening-breeze is sighing
Along the beech-wood coverts, sigh on sigh,
Where all the lingering airs are cool and sweet
With woodruff and the soft, crush'd juniper,
And scarce a bough can stir,
It is so still here in the fading day;
And there, in England, miles and miles away,
He is dying.

All messages come slowly
To this pure haunt of sylvan loneliness;
Perchance even now he hath put off the stress
Of life, and its extremest weariness,
For rest more calm and holy.
I know not if the face I seem to see
Upon the long white visionary bed
Be living still, or hath been some time dead;
For it is shrouded wholly,
As by the mist that lifts from off the sea,
As by the wood-smoke drifting in the wood.
I know not if I greet my friend
Still here, but sinking to an end;
Or gaze across the interlude
Of a cold beginning mystery;
Or see before me lying stiff and frore
The statue that he is no more.

Howe'er it be, farewell!
Farewell, from shining fjord and pine-clad fell,
From odorous brae and unfamiliar shore, --
Now I shall see that sacred face no more;
No longer from those mild, transfigured eyes
See flash the gracious miracle
Of sympathetic thoughts and sage replies, --
Those eyes that were the store
Of kindness unreproving, keen and wise.

Farewell, farewell!
The darkness gathers round me in the bell
Of cowslip-coloured air;
And the long coast beyond grows pale and faint.
A little vanishing boat returning thither
Sends silver streamers in her wake,
Altho' her oars scarce break
The lucent mirror of the lake.
She passes into silence and dim light,
She fades into the cowslip-coloured night, --
She passes, -- whither?

I know not. But I know
From me the silent occupant must go;
Whatever message to this shore he brought,
Whatever comforting of heart's annoy,
Whatever cargo of clear thought,
Whatever freight of hope and joy, --
His hour is over and his mission done.
Thanks for the long day's happy work he wrought,
Thanks for his cheerful toil beneath the sun,
Thanks for the victories he won.
Now, late at evening, with a silver thread
Of loving memories in his wake, he goes.

Perchance the distance brings him what he sought,
Perchance the further shore, where he is fled,
Is mirage to the dead.
Who knows, who knows?

To all at length an end!
All sailors to some unseen harbour float.
Farewell, mysterious, happy, twilight boat.
Farewell, my friend!

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