OF THIS EDITION OF ARGOSIES AT DAWN, BY AUDREY DEAN HUGHES, ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY COPIES HAVE BEEN PRINTED. THIS CHAP-BOOK IS A PRODUCT OF THE RYERSON PRESS, TORONTO, CANADA.
The Ryerson Press
This small collection of poems, Argosies at Dawn, by Aubrey Dean Hughes, is offered by the author as a sincere product of the period of apprenticeship to a supreme art, with a full realization of the many difficulties yet to be encountered along the road to maturity. [inside front cover]
Argosies at Dawn
By Aubrey Dean Hughes
No dulcet murmur bids me lend my heart To rapt enslavement of your constant smile, Nor feel the tremor of your scarlet lips, Nor learn surrender while your eyes beguile; For, alien-cold beneath the winter sky, The ruthless miles deny me sight or sound Or touch of you, and mock the fearfulness Between my longing and your worshipped ground. But tell me not the trust, our vows have forged Upon love's sacrificial heights, shall pause And yield because touch, sound and sight conform To the relentlessness of spacial laws. O, ever while moon, stars and seas endure Must I conceive our trust, as they, secure.
I cannot die unknowing I shall not feel again Young violets in my fingers, With petals warm with rain; Nor hear the bugler, Springtime, Sound through the April wood, A myriad buds to open, Each from its scarlet hood; [page 1] Nor see an orchard hillside Wake to the morning light, With tier on tier of petals Built depth on depth in white. Hear me, O my Creator, Before the snows of Death Shall chill my lips to silence And seal my labhoured breath. Grant me the calm assurance That somewhere I shall rise, And walk the roseate morning With April in my eyes. I, who so love high beauty, Shall never dare to die If death must mean surrender Forever of the sky! O grant, before the summons, A symbol of the light That floods the April hilltops Beyond Death's barren night. Then I shall yield life's splendour Easily to the sod, Knowing some hymn of springtime Shall waken me to God.
ON THE DEATH OF JOSEPH CONRAD
Mute are the tropic drums, the typhoon's scream; The sea-surf's lyre drifts chordless by the shore; For he who fused their sorcery in a theme Of sombre-choralled beauty is no more. Through maze of jungle and by dim lagoon The word of death has sped its mystic way, And prostrate on the torrid couch of noon The Afric world gives up its grief to-day. Over my heart a weary numbness steals, And sorrow's psalm breaks from my trembling lips. Still through my vision each lift of dawn reveals The stately, silent drama of his ships; For death and grief can never thieve from me The lines he charged with Beauty's imagery. [page 2]
Up! Up! We have a day to spend. The sun has won the East again. The April slopes are jewelled with dew; And from the greening fields the strain Of gypsy rapture bids me be An errant child of Romany. O, leave your petty dreams, grown cold! Unteach your knowledge gained by rote! And fare with me to learn the thrill Of wisdom from a robin's throat; For Spring has formed a tryst with me To walk the fields of Romany. Adown the columned forest ways The scarlet buds of days ago Have clothed their boughs in emerald, And there a dreamer, bending low, May learn some mystery of Spring From every leaflet's whispering. By silver swollen streams that gleam From meadow's breast and woodland shades, A floral reign is building now A petalled kingdom through the blades Of greenery, and there the sway Of April lures my heart away. Beyond the city's last drab street The roads lead out and up and on Through folds of hills until they lose All semblance in the halcyon Reaches of cloud. O, I would know Where all the purple roadways go. Then up! From bonds of craven cant Break free! The splendid hours await Our spending. Let the twilight find Our faces set against the gate Of sunset. There we'll stand and say To the shaping stars, "We lived to-day." [page 3]
To each his cup of woe! The ruthless stroke Of fate how often brands the artist's toil With grievous failure, holds the poet's lines From immortality, and stays the boon Of friendship's balm from the despairing souls Of losing men. Alone, against a world Of irony, the spurnèd hearts beat on, Uncomforted. So in my loss of you— By your desire—my eyes and ears and hands Have given up the elixir which late Did bring fulfilment to my high endeavour To bound life's perfect scope. But, though I yield, What force can ever wrest from out my soul The memories your presence there bestowed, Now summoned to assuage my bitterness? O, fast into the midnight of your hair, On some floral hillside, now, another hand Works petalled patterns from fresh-garnered piles Of many scented blooms. But who shall say How soon quick anger's heat shall breed vile words To mar the fullness of that pastorale? Not thus can speech destroy or fear assail The sweet perfection of the tender hours I live again, in memory's sanctuary, The years our love was ripe. O, true to you My days have been by being true to love. And in your absence, now, though sorrow fills My cup, the world is dressed in beauty's hues. Such artistry did never reign until The haunting spell of loneliness disclosed The wealth your presence lent my meagre world. Though loss has sought me out, I have not bent Beneath the burden. Rather now my soul Drinks of earth's marvels with a deeper zeal. For have I heard not, through the trysting hours, Your love-vow at my ear? Each birth of dawn, Adrift through Orient gates into the world, Benumbs my senses like a mystic drug, [page 4] As I recall the morns we scaled the heights And gasped as one to see the argosies Of pearl ride up the sky. Each smouldering fire Of day, suffusing through the jewelled mould Of Western clouds deprives my lips of power To shape in phrase the transport of my soul, For well I know such beauty mastered you And bound your lips to silence in a spell. Surely the deep divinity of hours, When memory's fugues restore my wounded heart, Shall lead me up from darkness to the light Of peace. Then let old sorrow's knell die out, And let remembrance ever blend rich chords Of harmony to match with perfect note The perfect movement of the sacred hours Our love was one. Thus let my life flow on, Nurtured by rich perfection's crystal springs, And fearless of the serpents that attend The trysting place of thoughtless burning lips.
A loft in Fancy's realms I hear Youth's elfin prelude at my ear; See, as a child, the artist pines Mouldering the heights to emerald lines; Feel the lithe river rushes sway Against my body stripped for play In crystal depths. Let Memory swing The dim years’ gates. Let boyhood fling Its gifts against my fragile heart To give me solace ere I part With Life's worn shell. O what mad joy I found in flinging, when a boy, My body down against a hill To let the streaming sunlight fill My skin with bronze! O, loved the days I fared with Nature through her ways Of tree and flower, fern and stream, [page 5] Turning to watch the last blood-gleam Of sun drain down the Western wall Of clouds, and leave my soul in thrall; When through the dusk, with pace of snail, The kine, milk-heavy, found the trail Before my brandished staff; the nights When Heaven trained her boreal lights Against my trancèd eyes; the rain Low muttering against the pane While, bent in book, I lost the hours, Or watched the sable-draped cloud towers Go crumbling down; the redolence Of breezes, bearing on the sense From lilac-laden lanes of June. What madness stirred to feel the boon Of first snow jewel-flakes in my hair, As, poised with sled on hill yet bare, I planned the winter's run—see now, Between those pines, to miss that bough, Down past the mill, to flash across The creek—to watch the daring moss Grope through March snow to plead the sun For succour; see the first clean run Of mellow sap in maple grove In springtime’s warming days; to rove Alone, each dusk, the hills and hear Darkness, the panther, coming near, But crouching then awhile to know That God would lift His hallowed glow Again, and flood the field's dark loam With pearl to guide my footsteps home. Countless the daybreaks when I crept Out from my bed to intercept The sun before its disk of gold Swung up to gild that gnarled and old Low elm bough; the nights when rapture Stirred my senses to the capture Of things I fain would understand. A wondering child in grown-up’s land I was. O, how I thrilled to feel The tide of moonlight softly steal Against my cheek, as still I lay, Adream, to wake to midnight’s day And watch a loose star hurtle by Between my body and the sky. [page 6] O days and nights of mystery When, throbbing through the heart of me, Always some new-found love awoke New colour to my cheek, or broke My lips apart with wonder, stirred My soul to passion like a word Of sweetest sound; the web of dew Which bound the meadow-land and drew Patterns of silver through the brake To lure my hurrying feet; the lake Fretting her velvet midnight shores, As armed with spear, with muffled oars, I sought the red-fin’s hidden lair; The thrill of grey wings high in air In Autumn; Winter’s robes of white; The emerald springtime’s lengthened light; Brown summer lands; the smell of hay, New-mown; the lark’s impassioned lay; Young streams in flight; the soughing breeze; Ripe harvest fruit; the storm-swayed trees; Bronze wheat in bins; the swamill's whine; Birds; flowers; brooklets, crystalline; Ploughed fields; green hedges; garden plots; Lost woodland paths; forget-me-nots. O myriad loves, and myriad hosts Of memories,—like ageless ghosts Crowding the fancy of my brain In some Elysian home, again, Where I shall bide eternally,— Give back the days of youth to me. Then make me strangely wise once more With the old wealth of childhood lore. O never let Life teach me aught But worths evoked through boyhood’s thought; And let me ever learn from truth Gleaned from the litany of youth. Thus would I live again and grow In priceless wisdom, never know The long, deep agony of dreams Destroyed, but move where Beauty gleams From petal, leaf and wing and cloud, Not wishing but to be endowed Forever with the changeless joy I knew in earthtime as a boy. [page 7]
THAT I MAY COME . . .
That I may come To the grave’s edge with knowledge that my days Have not been trammeled by the world’s shrill praise, Or fortune’s largess, laughter’s alien note, Give me the hand of sorrow at my throat. Beneath the rose and myrtle strew for me A course of thorns to teach humility. To give me sufferance, O Life, invest My rarest hours with a sad unrest. Temper my smug complacency with fears That I shall not have garnered from the years Lore from the Muses’ shrine to make me wise, Before Death lays cold fingers on my eyes. Shatter the concepts of my foolish pride, That in Life’s quest I shall not be denied The careless rapture that the ancients knew, On finding, at the source of beauty’s hue, The perfect jewel of truth. Then I shall go Full-armed into the shadows where the slow And ominous murmuring Stygian tides will claim My soul, and musically sound my name Across the shades, into the Judgement Halls Of the Unknown, beyond Death’s petty walls. As thus I die, across the whirling spheres Swiftly I’ll hear the words and know my years Were plundered not. . . . [page 8]