by May Byron
O' stormy nights, be they summer or winter,
Hurricane nights like these,
When spar and topsail are rag and splinter
Hurled o'er the sluicing seas,
To the jagged edge where the cliffs lean over,
Climb as you best may climb;
Lie there and listen where mysteries hover,
Haunting the tides of Time.
The crumbling surf on the shingle rattles,
The great waves topple and pour,
Full of the fury of ancient battles,
Clamant with cries of war.
The gale has summoned, the night has beckoned—
Lo, from the east and west,
Stately shadows arise unreckoned
Out of their deeps of rest!
Wild on the wind are voices ringing,
Echoes that throng the air,
Valiant voices, of victory singing,
Or dark with sublime despair.
To the distant drums with their rumbling hollow,
The answering trumpets blow:
War-horn and fife and cymbals follow,
From galleys of long ago.
The crested breaker on reef and boulder
That swirls in cavernous black,
Carries a challenge from decks that moulder
To ships that never came back.
The gale that swoops and the sea that wrestles
Are one in their wrath and might
With the crash and clashing of arméd vessels,
Grinding across the night.
Out of the dark the broadsides thunder,
Clattering to and fro:
The old sea-fighters, the old world's wonder,
Are manning their wrecks below.
You shall smell the smoke, you shall hear the crackle,
Shall mark on the surly blast
Rush and tear of the rending tackle,
Thud of the falling mast.
With the foam that flies and the spray that spatters,
Scourging the strand again,
A terrible outcry leaps and shatters—
Tumult of drowning men.
The steep gray cliff is alive and trembles—
Was never such fear as this!
A fleet, a fleet at its foot assembles
Out of the sea's abyss.
It quails and quivers, its grassy verges
Vibrant with uttermost dread:
It knows the groan of the laden surges,
The shout of the deathless Dead.
In a rolling march of reverberations,
Marching with wind and tide,
Heroes of unremembered nations
Vaunt their immortal pride.
Briton, Spaniard, Phœnician, Roman,
Gallant implacable hosts—
Locked in fight with phantom foeman,
Gather the grim sea-ghosts.