Duandon

By George Sterling

Duandon, king of Aetna's farthest bound
And lord of isles the sea is loud around,
Beheld the crimson fountains of the dawn
Bear up the lark, a foam of song, till drawn
Thither he fared, expectant and alone.
Thithier he fared, fresh from the sea of sleep,
And all the balmy land was blossomed deep,
Nor could one wander save on helpless flow'rs,
Where Summer made a garland of the hours
And bound it on the dew-dipt brow of Morn,
Bent low above the meadow's blossom-bourn.
But past all peace of bowers rang the call
And invocation of the billows' fall,
And, clean from kingdoms  of the  sapphire vast,
After he saw the eddying petrel sweep
O'er reefs where hoarser roared the thwarted deep,
And soon before his eyes, exultant, fain,
Heavy with azure gleamed the investing main,
And quick with pulsings of a distant storm,
Strong as that music floating Troy to form.
Splendid the everlasting ocean shone
As God's blue robe upon a desert thrown;
Landward he saw the sea-born breakers fare,
Young as a wind and ancient as the air;
August he saw the unending ranks uproll,
With joy and wonder mastering the soul,
With marvel on tile hearing and the sight—
Green fires, and billows tremulous with light,
With shaken soul of light and shuddering blaze
Of leaping  emerald and cold chrysoprase,—
The surge and suspiratioqn of the sea.
Great waters choral of eternity,—
The mighty, dirge that will not cease for day
Nor all rhe stars' invincible array,—
The thunder that has set, since Time began,
Its sorrow in the lonely heart of man.

Long stood the king before that wide review,
Divining, deep beyond its sound and hue,
Unfathomable mystery and dream,—
Rapture and woe illusive but supreme;
And as the pine against the sea-wind sighs,
So thrilled his breast with whispers and surmise;
Till, on a beach that only he might roam,
The sea, from broadest tapestries of foam,
From mighty looms immaculate and cold,
A scarlet shell before his feet uprolled.
Wet as with blood against the dawn it flamed,
Deep-whorled and irised, lustrous and unnamed—
A jewel of the sea that burned and shore
Like some king-ruby ravished from a throne
And long Duandon wandered, all-amazed,
And long upon the shell's wild beauty gazed,
Until,   remembering, swiftly to his ear
He held it, eager as a child to hear
That echo like the murmuring of sea—
Astray forever on a mournful breeze
And borne from some remote, nocturnal bound;
Whearat a voice, in sorceries of sound
To which the grace of vanished lyres had clung,
Sang from the shell as never voice had sung:

    Far down, where virgin silence reigns,
        In jasper evenings of the sea,
        I toss my pearls, I wait for thee
    The sea has lent me all its stains:
        It is but treasure-house of me.

    The corals of the deep have caught
        A Titan shell whose fragile dome
        Is crimson o'er mine ocean home—
    Mine opal chambers subtly wrought
        In semblance of the shaken foam.

    Ok, come! and thou shalt dream with me,
        By violet foam at twilight tossed
        On strands of ocean islets lost
    To proms that seek them Wearily,
        O'er seas by questing sunsets crossed.

    All dreams that Hope has promised Love,
        All beauty thou hast sought in vain,
        All joy held once and lost again,
    Those,  and  the  mystery  thereof,
        I guard beneath the sundering main.

So rang that crystal cry, as from afar,
Clear as the voice of Heaven's whitest star,
And  strong Duandon pondered, with his gaze
Set like twin stars above those azure ways,
Keener his heart, a plummet, yearned to sound
The gulf that held his soul amazed and bound,
Where , darker for the skies unclouded dome,
The waves took sudden coronals of foam,
Till half the deemed he saw, far out, the white
Flung arms and bosom of the ocean-sprite.
Hour beyond hour, until the sun was fled,
Strode he on sands that none but him might tread;
Hour beyond hour one sight his vision drank—
A foam-white arm that beckoned once, and sank.
Then, wave to wave in deeper anthems roared,
And realm by realm the belted sunset soared,
As tho a city of the Titans burned
In lands below the sea-line undiscerned;
Till desolation touched it, zone by zone,
Its splendors gone, like jewels turned to stone,
And sad with evening sang the ocean-choirs,
Domed by stars' imperishable fires.

But still Duandon lingered on the sands
And clasped the shell with indecisive hands;
Ghostly it gleamed, nor music would outpour
Save of the sea on some disastrous shore.
And still he stood, and listened but to hark
The surf, like dragons battling in the dark;
Implacable they ravened, ere the moon,
A towering glory on the eastern dune,
A frozen splendor on the seething strand,
In silver webs had snared the sea and land.
Then, as on hostile waves her arrows leapt,
Duandon turned him from the sea, and slept.
Slept, but the morning found him yet again
A lonely searcher of the lonelier main;
And night by night, and day by barren day,
Silent he stood before the waves array—
The victim of an unrelenting strife
Of joy with death, of love with love of life
Ever at dawn tie voice from out the shell
Renewed within his heart the siren's spell;
Ever the wild, enchanting melody
Rang as the sun was wedded to the sea.
And still the royal pageant of the world
Before his doom-bewildered eyes unfurled,
With dusky stain of sunsets northward drawn
And cloudy headlands of the coasts of dawn
Beyond that realm of jade and jade-bound bays,
He saw the sapphire fields of ocean blaze;
Heard the allegiant waters chant their rune
Before the turquoise battlements of noon,
Where evening armies of the mist would roam
As twilight mixed its purple with the foam—
Where sunlight, checked in its torrential leap,
Would froth at dawn about some cloudland steep.
Debarred was peace, tho Sleep, with tender hand,
Led him awhile in her allaying land;
For soon the sea flowed in upon his dream,
And far below he saw the Singer gleam—
Her floating hair and pearly body's grace,
With sunken moonlight pure upon her face.
So still he yearned, on whom her spell was laid,
And ever sunset, like a golden blade,
Cut day by day from life, and ever he
Heard like the voice of Death the lordly sea,
Chanting, enthroned on choric reef and bars,
Its midnight song below the weastern stars,
And all the stars seemed ministrant to doom
As high Orion trod his arc of gloom.

Broke then a morning when the weary sea
Lay hushed above its halls of mystery;
Besieging fog hung mute on shore and vale,
With pallid banners and with ashen mail,
And ocean, grey as with oblivion,
Lay hidden from the visage of the sun
High noon drove not the phantom army forth,
Nor winds slow-seeping from the muffled North,
And weary with its vigil of the deep,
Duandon's soul put out on seas of sleep;
Dreamless he lay ere sunset, and the shell,
Unguarded,  from assenting fingers  fell.
Came then, nor spilt that anodyne of rest,
His only son, impatient with the quest,
New-fared from crimson victories of war—
Tall as the spears that lesser champions bore.
To him the horizon was a smitten chord
That rang in challenge to his youthful sword,
And thrilled with all the murmurs of romance
The realms remote from his insatiate lance.
Silent awhile he stood, and ere he spoke,
Routed at last, the sea-mists army broke,
And, as its ranks fled landward to their knell,
The consummating sunset smote the shell. . . .

Duandon woke below the evening star,
And saw the foam's incessant scimetar
Flash from the billow's sheath, and heard the cry
Of winds released upon the weastern sky;
Forlorn beyond the darkling waters lay
The sullen embers of the pyre of Day—
Dull, ere obscuring night should make the sea
One with the reaches of infinity;
Then to the sands his gaze returned, to meet
The seaward print of unreturning feet.
Gone was the shell; a sword lay in its stead,
From alters of the buries sun made red—
A blade he knew so well from all the rest
It seemed that instant to transfix his breast.
Afar or near, on waters grey and lone,
No swimmer swept, no arm uplifted shone;
Austere and vacant rolled the cryptic main,
Unsearchable: the prince came not again,
Unseen on tawny beach or waters loud,—
Gone like the shadow of a vanished colud.

Aye !  better vanished, than to wait, as he,
Duandon, silent by the unmastered sea,
From which, till death, his  heart was doomed to greave
The uncomprehended tidings of the wave—
An echo of that music from the shell
Forever vibrant in its fall and swell—
Was fated, still, from azure gulfs to dream
He Saw the arm of some white swimmer gleam,
Flung for an instant from the shifting spray—
Siren, or son, or both, he could not say.

And feelest thou no pangs of beauty lost,
When morning waves or waters sunset-crost
Cry to thy soul, unsatisfied, alone,
Of Isles to which its younger dreams have flown?
The  might-have-been,  the  nevermore-to-be,
Bears not the deep their antiphon to thee?
For man. has found, as man shall ever find,
Some echo of his travail on the wind,
And sigh of great Depatures, and the breath
Of pinions incontestable by Death.
Of stars and shadows past to-morrow's ken
He finds him vision and announcement, when,
As storms beyond the horizon-line  prolong
The sea's imperious, eternal song,
The thunder-chorded surf on yellow sands
Resounds, like harps on which the gods lay hands.

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