A Western Voyage
My friend the Sun -- like all my friends
Inconstant, lovely, far away --
Is out, and bright, and condescends
To glory in our holiday.
A furious march with him I'll go
And race him in the Western train,
And wake the hills I used to know
And swim the Devon sea again.
I have done foolishly to tread
The footway of the false moonbeams,
To light my lamp and call the dead
And read their long black printed dreams.
I have done foolishly to dwell
With Fear upon her desert isle,
To take my shadowgraph to Hell,
And then to hope the shades would smile.
And since the light must fail me soon
(But faster, faster, Western train!)
Proud meadows of the afternoon,
I have remembered you again.
And I'll go seek through moor and dale
A flower that wastrel winds caress;
The bud is red and the leaves pale,
The name of it Forgetfulness.
Then like the old and happy hills
With frozen veins and fires outrun,
I'll wait the day when darkness kills
My brother and good friend, the Sun.
James Elroy Flecker, in John Squire (editor), The Collected Poems of James Elroy Flecker (Secker and Warburg 1946).
The poem was first published in 1910 in Flecker's Thirty-Six Poems. In August of that year, he had become ill, and he soon learned that he had contracted tuberculosis. In September he was admitted to a sanatorium in the Cotswolds. He died on January 3, 1915, at the age of 30. In view of these circumstances, the poem perhaps takes on a different aspect, particularly the final stanza and this line: "And since the light must fail me soon."
Stanley Roy Badmin (1906-1989), "Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale"
But serendipity was not finished with me yet. The past month I have been reading poems in The Greek Anthology and in other collections of Greek lyric poetry. Last night, I came upon this:
I love delicate ease and softness;
Born desire is mine
To behold things fair and lovely
And the bright sun-shine.
Sappho (translated by Walter Headlam), in Walter Headlam, A Book of Greek Verse (Cambridge 1907).
Yes, "there's nothing like the sun till we are dead."
James McIntosh Patrick, "A City Garden" (1940)