Poems, now first collected/Astra Caeli

New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, pages 196–198


Over the Carib Sea to-night
The stars hang low and near
From the inexplicable dome,—
Nearer, more close to sight,
Than from the skies which bound the stern gray sea
That girts our northern home.

Aftward the sister Crosses be,
And yonder to the lee
One burning cresset glows—a sphere
With light beyond a new moon's rays,
As if some world of vanished souls shone clear
And straight before our gaze.

Were now his spirit bright,—
Not veiled, nor dumb,—
My brother's, with the smile of years ago,
Hither to glide far down that path of light,
And lift a hand, and say aright,—
"Thou too shalt know
The orb from which I come!"

—Were thus 'twixt star and wave
His voice to reach me on the night-wind's breath,
I would not lightly leave thee, Dear,
Nor them who with thee here
Make of Life's best for me the choice and sum,—
But yet might not bemoan me, as the slave
Condemned, who hears the call to death;
For that strange heralding
Even of itself would answer all,—would prove
Life but a voyage such as this, and bring
To our adventuring
Its gage of the immortal boon,
Promise of after joy and toil and love;
And I would yield me, as the bird takes wing
Knowing its mate must follow sure and soon.

Ay,—but the trackless spirit
Comes not, nor is there utterance or sign
Of all we would divine
Vouchsafed from the unanswering dome:
No presence east or west,—
Only the stars—the restless wondering sea
Bearing us back, from foam-tipped crest to crest,
Toward the one small part ourselves inherit
Of this lone darkling world—and call our home.