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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Poems. II. Converse

William Walsham How (1823–1897)


TWO friends sat wrapped in converse low and grave,

Heart opened unto heart, hand linked in hand,

Hearing, yet hearing not, the pulsing wave

Beat on the shadowy strand;

Gazing in frequent pause with dreaming eye

O’er the wide silver sea into the West;

Making sweet silences, when faint words die,

And loving hearts take rest;

Sweet silences, that strangers never know,

Between the murmured words, that, like a dream,

Wander amid the past scenes dim and low,—

Oh, how far off they seem!

“Words following silence, silence following words,

So sped the golden sunset, till the land

Grew dimmer, and the last white flock of birds

Flashed on the glimmering sand.

Then all at once upstreamed in rippling flow

Of silent rosy waves a second sea,

Surging across all heaven, a trancing show

Of gorgeous pageantry.

The feathered cloudlets filled the plains of air,

Ranged by the soft wind’s delicate marshalling,

Till you could fancy angel armies there,

Nought seen but burnished wing.

Then more low converse till the last rose paled:—

But oh! if earth may bear such peace and love,

What shall the converse be when earth has failed

And spirits meet above!”