(August 7th, 1657)
Laden with spoil of the South, fulfilled with the glory of achievement,
And freshly crowned with never-dying fame,
Sweeping by shores where the names are the names of the victories of England,
Across the Bay the squadron homeward came.
Proudly they came, but their pride was the pomp of a funeral at midnight,
When dreader yet the lonely morrow looms;
Few are the words that are spoken, and faces are gaunt beneath the torchlight
That does but darken more the nodding plumes.
Low on the field of his fame, past hope lay the Admiral triumphant,
And fain to rest him after all his pain;
Yet for the love that he bore to his own land, ever unforgotten,
He prayed to see the western hills again.
Fainter than stars in a sky long gray with the coming of the daybreak,
Or sounds of night that fade when night is done,
So in the death-dawn faded the splendour and loud renown of warfare,
And life of all its longings kept but one.
“Oh! to be there for an hour when the shade draws in beside the hedgerows,
And falling apples wake the drowsy noon:
Oh! for the hour when the elms grow sombre and human in the twilight,
And gardens dream beneath the rising moon.
“Only to look once more on the land of the memories of childhood,
Forgetting weary winds and barren foam:
Only to bid farewell to the combe and the orchard and the moorland,
And sleep at last among the fields of home!”
So he was silently praying, till now, when his strength was ebbing faster,
The Lizard lay before them faintly blue;
Now on the gleaming horizon the white cliffs laughed along the coast-line,
And now the forelands took the shapes they knew.
There lay the Sound and the Island with green leaves down beside the water,
The town, the Hoe, the masts with sunset fired——
Dreams! ay, dreams of the dead! for the great heart faltered on the threshold,
And darkness took the land his soul desired.