Seascape by Stephen Spender


Seascape
In memoriam M.A.S

There are some days the happy ocean lies
Like an unfingered harp, below the land.
Afternoon gilds all the silent wires
Into a burning music for the eyes
On mirrors flashing between fine-strung fires
The shore, heaped up with roses, horses, spires
Wanders on water tall above ribbed sand.

The motionlessness of the hot sky tires
And a sigh, like a woman's from inland,
Brushes the instrument with shadowy hand
Drawing across those wires some gull's sharp cry
Or bell, or shout, from distant, hedged-in, shires;
These, deep as anchors, the hushing wave buries.

Then from the shore, two zig-zag butterflies
Like errant dog-roses cross the bright strand
Spiralling over waves in dizzy gyres
Until the fall in wet reflected skies.
They drown. Fishermen understand
Such wings sunk in such ritual sacrifice.

Remembering legends of undersea, drowned cities.
What voyagers, oh what heroes, flamed like pyres
With helmets plumed have set forth from some island
And them the seas engulfed. Their eyes
Distorted to the cruel waves desires,
Glitter with coins through the tide scarcely scanned,
While, far above, that harp assumes their sighs.
--Stephen Spender

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