Studies in Song/The Launch of the Livadia

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THE LAUNCH OF THE LIVADIA

Malâ soluta navis exit alite.

Hor.



Rigged with curses dark.

THE LAUNCH OF THE LIVADIA.

i.

Gold, and fair marbles, and again more gold,

And space of halls afloat that glance and gleam
Like the green heights of sunset heaven, or seem
The golden steeps of sunrise red and cold
On deserts where dark exile keeps the fold
Fast of the flocks of torment, where no beam
Falls of kind light or comfort save in dream,
These we far off behold not, who behold

The cordage woven of curses, and the decks
With mortal hate and mortal peril paven;
From stem to stern the lines of doom engraven
That mark for sure inevitable wrecks
Those sails predestinate, though no storm vex,
To miss on earth and find in hell their haven.

ii.

All curses be about her, and all ill

Go with her; heaven be dark above her way,
The gulf beneath her glad and sure of prey,
And, wheresoe'er her prow be pointed, still
The winds of heaven have all one evil will
Conspirant even as hearts of kings to slay
With mouths of kings to lie and smile and pray,
And chiefliest his whose wintrier breath makes chill

With more than winter's and more poisonous cold
The horror of his kingdom toward the north,
The deserts of his kingdom toward the east.
And though death hide not in her direful hold
Be all stars adverse toward her that come forth
Nightly, by day all hours till all have ceased:

iii.

Till all have ceased for ever, and the sum

Be summed of all the sumless curses told
Out on his head by all dark seasons rolled
Over its cursed and crowned existence, dumb
And blind and stark as though the snows made numb
All sense within it, and all conscience cold,
That hangs round hearts of less imperial mould
Like a snake feeding till their doomsday come.

O heart fast bound of frozen poison, be
All nature's as all true men's hearts to thee,
A two-edged sword of judgment; hope be far
And fear at hand for pilot oversea
With death for compass and despair for star,
And the white foam a shroud for the White Czar.

September 30, 1880.