Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nearing Quebec / Katherine Hale

Nearing Quebec

Grey line of ocean that our sharp bow severs,
Do you remember those tiny dipping sails
Venturing the unknown!
Then the free wind was an uncertain guide,
Criss-crossing the grey line,
Breaking the problematic course,
Enlarging, moving, changing
Opening the vast abyss.
Remember the huddled women
In question of this mystery,
The climbing, peering men,
The strain of tense expectancy,
And the doubt of arrival.
But the trembling line is controlled,
And the wayward guide dismissed.

What is the wind to us,
A beaten and frustrated force!
Did it once intimidate men,
Who used to measure and peer
At navies of storm in the sky?
First-rate machinery casts out fear,
And now we know what we know!
London, New York, it is all the same,
The ocean track is clear and tame,
We shall without doubt arrive.

Yet I return to you,
As though to a new land,
A woman on a sailing ship
Still huddled in a mystery.
Shall I touch your shores,
Past all these shimmering capes,
Prefacing cliffs and legends,
Witch-music, song of sirens,
Hymns of safety and the rest?
I mean your actual shores;
Earth of your very being,
The innermost of you:
The straight cliffs of your mind,
The mountains of your will,
The secret passes,
The deep and lovely fountains of your joy.
Are you to be my country,
My fathomless resource,
And my enduring song?
I, too, sail trembling
Into the unknown.

Katherine Hale
The Island and other poems 1934

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Katherine Hale biography

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