The Raven's Shadow

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Seabird, elemental sprite,
 Moulded of the sun and spray-
Raven, dreary flake of night
 Drifting in the eye of day-
What in common have ye two,
Meeting 'twixt the blue and blue?

Thou to eastward carriest
 The keen savour of the foam,-
Thou dost bear unto the west
 Fragrance from thy woody home,
Where perchance a house is thine
Odorous of the oozy pine.

Eastward thee thy proper cares,
 Things of mighty moment, call;
Thee to westward thine affairs
 Summon, weighty matters all:
I, where land and sea contest,
Watch you eastward, watch you west,

Till, in snares of fancy caught,
 Mystically changed ye seem,
And the bird becomes a thought,
 And the thought becomes a dream,
And the dream, outspread on high,
Lords it o'er the abject sky.

Surely I have known before
 Phantoms of the shapes ye be-
Haunters of another shore
 'Leaguered by another sea.
There my wanderings night and morn
Reconcile me to the bourn.

There the bird of happy wings
 Wafts the ocean-news I crave;
Rumours of an isle he brings
 Gemlike on the golden wave:
But the baleful beak and plume
Scatter immelodious gloom.

Though the flow'rs be faultless made,
 Perfectly to live and die-
Though the bright clouds bloom and fade
 Flow'rlike 'midst a meadowy sky-
Where this raven roams forlorn
Veins of midnight flaw the morn.

He not less will croak and croak
 As he ever caws and caws,
Till the starry dance he broke,
 Till the sphery pæan pause,
And the universal chime
Falter out of tune and time.

Coils the labyrinthine sea
 Duteous to the lunar will,
But some discord stealthily
 Vexes the world-ditty still,
And the bird that caws and caws
Clasps creation with his claws.

© William Watson