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George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953). A Treasury of War Poetry. 1917.

John Helston


THERE is wild water from the north;

The headlands darken in their foam

As with a threat of challenge stubborn earth

Booms at that far wild sea-line charging home.

The night shall stand upon the shifting sea

As yesternight stood there,

And hear the cry of waters through the air,

The iron voice of headlands start and rise—

The noise of winds for mastery

That screams to hear the thunder in those cries.

But now henceforth there shall be heard

From Brough of Bursay, Marwick Head,

And shadows of the distant coast,

Another voice bestirred—

Telling of something greatly lost

Somewhere below the tidal glooms, and dead.

Beyond the uttermost

Of aught the night may hear on any seas

From tempest-known wild water’s cry, and roar

Of iron shadows looming from the shore,

It shall be heard—and when the Orcades

Sleep in a hushed Atlantic’s starry folds

As smoothly as, far down below the tides,

Sleep on the windless broad sea-wolds

Where this night’s shipwreck hides.

By many a sea-holm where the shock

Of ocean’s battle falls, and into spray

Gives up its ghosts of strife; by reef and rock

Ravaged by their eternal brute affray

With monstrous frenzies of their shore’s green foe;

Where overstream and overfall and undertow

Strive, snatch away;

A wistful voice, without a sound,

Shall dwell beside Pomona, on the sea,

And speak the homeward- and the outward-bound,

And touch the helm of passing minds

And bid them steer as wistfully—

Saying: “He did great work, until the winds

And waters hereabout that night betrayed

Him to the drifting death! His work went on—

He would not be gainsaid.…

Though where his bones are, no man knows, not one!”