Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

First Line: I hate the sea, whose bladder-grapes
Last Line: I could not help touching earth again.

I HATE the sea, whose bladder-grapes,
Hung about thin nereids' napes
On harsh weed, can yield no wine;
I hate the sea's unknown design;
I do not need its mystery,
Earth holds all mysteries for me.
Ah, the dead thing, the worm-cold thing,
Slobbering the earth to whom I cling,
Hiding it, choking, making it end.

I shrink and crouch wherever blend
Mist and far water in blind space
Because they threaten opening ways:
It troubles me to feel left bare
To infinite and ungoverned air
And all too wide for me to live,
And so I hate the seas that give
Cold utterness and make me be
As if I had lost one side of me.

I love the sense of inwardness,
Of being inside an imminent space
Composed by my controlling heart,
Where no cessation makes me start
And I can almost think unspied
That nought can reach me from outside.

So 'tis black-loamed low valleys I
Choose with passion to fructify;
Where from a still stream, veined far down
With liquid amber dimly shewn,
Up the long slopes are ranged and sown
Vine-row on vine-row cluster-pied,
Like a feast-progress worship-tied,
Broidered and hung with filigree
Of shadows inlaid daedally;
Where broody orchards cower close
In deep-grassed bottoms round a house
That seems of some old lovesome growth
Builded by nature in its youth;
Where on near hills, that keep all safe
At either hand, sweet branches chafe
And sharpen the breath of coned thick pines
Whose resin thrills the valley's wines
(I curse the impious men who draw
Sea-wash to make poor wine less raw).

When mists smoke up in dead-ripe trees,
When lonely reapers' voices cease,
And in low laurel-pillared sheds
Many a girl the grape-mound treads
(Ripe in the bosom for dark maenadding,
Dreaming of ivy and vine leaf cladding)
Or watches orchard-men upraise
The cider-press for more high days
And shape new spouts of apple-wood hoar;
Ah, then I hate the sea yet more.

In Naxos of the Cyclades
I waited for another ease
Of perfect love to drop for me
Like fruit from a neglected tree.

Unwonted waiting burdensome grew,
And I felt my worship despised as new
When no love came at my needing one;
To be unadored is to feel alone,
So I turned me petulantly to sleep
That when the beautiful one should steep
Her feet in the surf to tread ashore
A terror of fear would whiten her more
Lest the glory awaiting her be gone,
Leaving her nought but a life like stone,
Past fitness for mortals, unwelcome to gods.

Crushing the tide-weed's loathsome pods,
I nested myself where waves were not heard....
Yet soon I felt damp lashes stirred
Upon my cheeks by a wind too fresh;
And saw my limbs in mesh on mesh
Of cordage stretched, and near me three
Salt-scurfed sea-thieves from Italy.

As I heard waves on a bulwark knock
And the deck beneath me creak at the shock,
I ached for earth's sureness and greenness and growth;
Till the ship ached with me and drove to the South,
And all its timbers to sap were tingling,
Sap where the light in my veins was mingling,
And masts and ropes were a-bud and a-twine
To ivy and vine, ivy and vine.
The deck was earth-rinded; my bonds turned green,
My spirit flowed and I slid between.
I became the pard whose hide I wore,
And felt like a long cat winged to soar:
Terror was at my knees to see
Tall sideways waves make mouths at me,
But I drooped my head in wisdom and shame
Till I saw no more the waters flame,
Then I pawed through vines that bloomed to the moon
And touched them to soft-bunched fruit too soon
Because I would reach those sea-thieves gray.
But they leapt to the waves, gibbering to pray
To Phoibos god of seafarers;
Who made them his dolphins to dance to my curse.
It is sad and evil that gods undo
The wills of each other and shake them so;
For godship in all is perilled thereby,
While man slips into the mastery....

I know not where the waters went,
They shrank in swirls from my ache intent;
I know not where I lost the main,
I could not help touching earth again.

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