Songs in Absence 1

A poem by Arthur Hugh Clough

Farewell, farewell! Her vans the vessel tries,
His iron might the potent engine plies:
Haste, winged words, and ere ’tis useless, tell,
Farewell, farewell, yet once again, farewell.

The docks, the streets, the houses past us fly,
Without a strain the great ship marches by;
Ye fleeting banks take up the words we tell,
And say for us yet once again, farewell.

The waters widen, on without a strain
The strong ship moves upon the open main;
She knows the seas, she hears the true waves swell,
She seems to say farewell, again farewell.

The billows whiten and the deep seas heave;
Fly once again, sweet words, to her I leave,
With winds that blow return, and seas that swell,
Farewell, farewell, say once again, farewell.

Fresh in my face and rippling to my feet
The winds and waves an answer soft repeat,
In sweet, sweet words far brought they seem to tell,
Farewell, farewell, yet once again, farewell.

Night gathers fast; adieu, thou fading shore!
The land we look for next must lie before;
Hence, foolish tears! weak thoughts, no more rebel,
Farewell, farewell, a last, a last farewell.

Yet not, indeed, ah not till more than sea
And more than space divide my love and me,
Till more than waves and winds between us swell,
Farewell, a last, indeed, a last farewell.

Ye flags of Piccadilly,
Where I posted up and down,
And wished myself so often
Well away from you and town,

Are the people walking quietly
And steady on their feet,
Cabs and omnibuses plying
Just as usual in the street?

Do the houses look as upright
As of old they used to be,
And does nothing seem affected
By the pitching of the sea?

Through the Green Park iron railings
Do the quick pedestrians pass?
Are the little children playing
Round the plane-tree in the grass?

This squally wild north-wester
With which our vessel fights,
Does it merely serve with you to
Carry up some paper kites?

Ye flags of Piccadilly,
Which I hated so, I vow
I could wish with all my heart
You were underneath me now!

COME home, come home! and where is home for me,
Whose ship is driving o’er the trackless sea?
To the frail bark here plunging on its way,
To the wild waters, shall I turn and say
To the plunging bark, or to the salt sea foam,
You are my home.

Fields once I walked in, faces once I knew,
Familiar things so old my heart believed them true,
These far, far back, behind me lie, before
The dark clouds mutter, and the deep seas roar,
And speak to them that ’neath and o’er them roam
No words of home.

Beyond the clouds, beyond the waves that roar,
There may indeed, or may not be, a shore,
Where fields as green, and hands and hearts as true,
The old forgotten semblance may renew,
And offer exiles driven far o’er the salt sea foam
Another home.

But toil and pain must wear out many a day,
And days bear weeks, and weeks bear months away,
Ere, if at all, the weary traveller hear,
With accents whispered in his wayworn ear,
A voice he dares to listen to, say, Come
To thy true home.

Come home, come home! and where a home hath he
Whose ship is driving o’er the driving sea?
Through clouds that mutter, and o’er waves that roar,
Say, shall we find, or shall we not, a shore
That is, as is not ship or ocean foam,
Indeed our home?


GREEN fields of England! wheresoe’er
Across this watery waste we fare,
Your image at our hearts we bear
Green fields of England, everywhere.

Sweet eyes in England, I must flee
Past where the waves’ last confines be,
Ere your loved smile I cease to see,
Sweet eyes in England, dear to me.

Dear home in England, safe and fast
If but in thee my lot lie cast,
The past shall seem a nothing past
To thee, dear home, if won at last;
Dear home in England, won at last.


COME back, come back, behold with straining mast
And swelling sail, behold her steaming fast;
With one new sun to see her voyage o’er,
With morning light to touch her native shore.
Come back, come back.

Come back, come back, while westward labouring by,
With sailless yards, a bare black hulk we fly.
See how the gale we fight with sweeps her back,
To our lost home, on our forsaken track.
Come back, come back.

Come back, come back, across the flying foam,
We hear faint far-off voices call us home,
Come back, ye seem to say; ye seek in vain;
We went, we sought, and homeward turned again.
Come back, come back.

Come back, come back; and whither back or why?
To fan quenched hopes, forsaken schemes to try;
Walk the old fields; pace the familiar street;
Dream with the idlers, with the bards compete.
Come back, come back.

Come back, come back; and whither and for what?
To finger idly some old Gordian knot,
Unskilled to sunder, and too weak to cleave,
And with much toil attain to half-believe.
Come back, come back.

Come back, come back; yea back, indeed, do go
Sighs panting thick, and tears that want to flow;
Fond fluttering hopes upraise their useless wings,
And wishes idly struggle in the strings;
Come back, come back.

Come back, come back, more eager than the breeze,
The flying fancies sweep across the seas,
And lighter far than ocean’s flying foam,
The heart’s fond message hurries to its home.
Come back, come back

Come back, come back!
Back flies the foam; the hoisted flag streams back;
The long smoke wavers on the homeward track,
Back fly with winds things which the winds obey,
The strong ship follows its appointed way.


SOME future day when what is now is not,
When all old faults and follies are forgot,
And thoughts of difference passed like dreams away,
We’ll meet again, upon some future day.

When all that hindered, all that vexed our love,
As tall rank weeds will climb the blade above,
When all but it has yielded to decay,
We’ll meet again upon some future day.

When we have proved, each on his course alone,
The wider world, and learnt what’s now unknown,
Have made life clear, and worked out each a way,
We’ll meet again, we shall have much to say.

With happier mood, and feelings born anew,
Our boyhood’s bygone fancies we’ll review,
Talk o’er old talks, play as we used to play,
And meet again, on many a future day.

Some day, which oft our hearts shall yearn to see,
In some far year, though distant yet to be,
Shall we indeed, ye winds and waters, say!
Meet yet again, upon some future day?


Where lies the land to which the ship would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away,
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.

On sunny noons upon the deck’s smooth face,
Linked arm in arm, how pleasant here to pace;
Or, o’er the stern reclining, watch below
The foaming wake far widening as we go.

On stormy nights when wild north-westers rave,
How proud a thing to fight with wind and wave!
The dripping sailor on the reeling mast
Exults to bear, and scorns to wish it past.

Where lies the land to which the ship would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away,
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.


The mighty ocean rolls and raves,
To part us with its angry waves;
But arch on arch from shore to shore,
In a vast fabric reaching o’er,

With careful labours daily wrought
By steady hope and tender thought,
The wide and weltering waste above,
Our hearts have bridged it with their love.

There fond anticipations fly
To rear the growing structure high;
Dear memories upon either side
Combine to make it large and wide.

There, happy fancies day by day,
New courses sedulously lay;
There soft solicitudes, sweet fears,
And doubts accumulate, and tears.

While the pure purpose of the soul,
To form of many parts a whole,
To make them strong and hold them true,
From end to end, is carried through.

Then when the waters war between,
Upon the masonry unseen,
Secure and swift, from shore to shore,
With silent footfall travelling o’er,

Our sundered spirits come and go.
Hither and thither, to and fro,
Pass and repass, now linger near,
Now part, anew to reappear.

With motions of a glad surprise,
We meet each other’s wondering eyes,
At work, at play, when people talk,
And when we sleep, and when we walk.

Each dawning day my eyelids see
You come, methinks, across to me,
And I, at every hour anew
Could dream I travelled o’er to you.


That out of sight is out of mind
Is true of most we leave behind;
It is not sure, nor can be true,
My own and only love, of you.

They were my friends, ’twas sad to part;
Almost a tear began to start;
But yet as things run on they find
That out of sight is out of mind.

For men, that will not idlers be,
Must lend their hearts to things they see;
And friends who leave them far behind,
When out of sight are out of mind.

I blame it not; I think that when
The cold and silent meet again,
Kind hearts will yet as erst be kind,
’Twas ‘out of sight,’ was ‘out of mind.’

I knew it when we parted, well,
I knew it, but was loth to tell;
I felt before, what now I find,
That ‘out of sight’ is ‘out of mind.’

That friends, however friends they were,
Still deal with things as things occur,
And that, excepting for the blind,
What’s out of sight is out of mind.

But love, the poets say, is blind;
So out of sight and out of mind
Need not, nor will, I think, be true,
My own and only love, of you.


Were you with me, or I with you,
There’s nought, methinks, I might not do;
Could venture here, and venture there,
And never fear, nor ever care.

To things before, and things behind,
Could turn my thoughts, and turn my mind,
On this and that, day after day,
Could dare to throw myself away.

Secure, when all was o’er, to find
My proper thought, my perfect mind,
And unimpaired receive anew
My own and better self in you.


Am I with you, or you with me?
Or in some blessed place above,
Where neither lands divide nor sea,
Are we united in our love?

Oft while in longing here I lie,
That wasting ever still endures;
My soul out from me seems to fly,
And half-way, somewhere, meet with yours.

Somewhere, but where I cannot guess,
Beyond, may be, the bound of space,
The liberated spirits press
And meet, bless heaven, and embrace.

It seems not either here nor there,
Somewhere between us up above,
A region of a clearer air,
The dwelling of a purer love.


Were I with you, or you with me,
My love, how happy should we be;
Day after day it is sad cheer
To have you there, while I am here.

My darling’s face I cannot see,
My darling’s voice is mute for me,
My fingers vainly seek the hair
Of her that is not here, but there.

In a strange land, to her unknown,
I sit and think of her alone;
And in that happy chamber where
We sat, she sits, nor has me there.

Yet still the happy thought recurs
That she is mine, as I am hers,
That she is there, as I am here,
And loves me, whether far or near.

The mere assurance that she lives
And loves me, full contentment gives;
I need not doubt, despond, or fear,
For, she is there, and I am here.


Were you with me, or I with you,
There’s nought methinks I could not do;
And nothing that, for your dear sake,
I might not dare to undertake.

With thousands standing by as fit,
More keen, perhaps more needing it,
To be the first some job to spy,
And jump and call out, Here am I!

O for one’s miserable self
To ask a pittance of the pelf,
To claim, however small, a share,
Which other men might think so fair:

It was not worth it! a first time
A thought upon it seemed a crime;
To stoop and pick the dirty pence,
A taint upon one’s innocence.

My own! with nothing sordid, base,
Or mean, we would our love disgrace;
Yet something I methinks could do,
Were you with me, or I with you:

Some misconstruction would sustain;
Count some humiliation gain;
Make unabashed a righteous claim,
And profess merit without shame:

Apply for service; day by day
Seek honest work for honest pay,
Without a fear by any toil
The over-cleanly hand to soil:

Secure in safety to return,
And every pettiness unlearn;
And unimpaired still find anew
My own and better self in you.

O ship, ship, ship,
That travellest over the sea,
What are the tidings, I pray thee,
Thou bearest hither to me?

Are they tidings of comfort and joy,
That shall make me seem to see
The sweet lips softly moving
And whispering love to me?

Or are they of trouble and grief,
Estrangement, sorrow, and doubt,
To turn into torture my hopes,
And drive me from Paradise out?

O ship, ship, ship,
That comest over the sea,
Whatever it be thou bringest,
Come quickly with it to me.


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