Steamer Voices by Boyce Bowden

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Calling through the failing twilight, riding on the striding gale,
How the voices of the steamers lift and answer hail for hail;
Sea-words on the swift nor'-easter shrilling over grey and damp,
"Hi there!" from the dipping tugboat. "Ho there!" from the lurching tramp.

I am weary-souled and hungry for the world that's green and salt;
Lost amid the city's mazes, mine the bondage, not the fault;
Cautious Reason soothes the senses, and the narrowed life is right
Till I hear the steamer-voices calling on a windy night.

How the strong air bears their voices; yet between the fitful lulls
All my fancy hears the tide-way wrenching at their weedy hulls;
And I hear a fading music like a shower of silver rain,
As the wild gusts whip the white spray from each tautened anchor-chain.

I can hear them, I can hear them; all the bare and beaten street
May not hear the deep-sea phrases that to me are passing sweet --
Wistful tones of silver music echoed from the shining ways
When the noisy bows were questing downward through the tropic days.

Almost I can feel a warm wind blowing softly on my face,
See again the golden gulf-weed drifting by like scarves of lace;
And I feel my pulses beating for the joys that once were mine,
Dropping slowly through the seasons to the southward from the line.

Ocean-stranger, are there schooners fluttering yet off the Azores?
Are there Carib girls at Colon dancing still on marble floors?
Are the palm-trees at Jamaica soft against the afterglow?
All my heart can hear the answer, and I know that it is so.

Steamer whistles! Steamer whistles! Steamer bells that toll and toll,
Rolling like the tide of memory on the dim beach of the soul!
Steamer voices strongly speaking wonder-words from overseas,
Like a group of yarning sailors with the children round their knees!

First published in The Bulletin, 8 April 1920

Author: Boyce Bowden (1885-??) was born in Sydney.  Beyond this little is known about this author.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 8, 2012 7:15 AM.

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