by Helen Hunt Jackson
Counting the hours by bells and lights
We rose and sank;
The waves on royal banquet-heights
Tossed off and drank
Their jewels made of sun and moon,
White pearls at midnight, gold at noon.
Counting the hours by bells and lights,
We sailed and sailed;
Six lonely days, six lonely nights,
No ship we hailed.
Till all the sea seemed bound in spell,
And silence sounded like a knell.
At last, just when by bells and lights
Of seventh day
The dawn grew clear, in sudden flights
White sails away
To east, like birds, went spreading slow
Their wings which reddened in the glow.
No more we count the bells and lights;
We laugh for joy.
The trumpets with their brazen mights
We hold each other's hands; our cheeks
Are wet with tears; but no one speaks.
In instant comes the sun and lights
The ship with fire;
Each mast creeps up to dizzy heights,
A blazing spire;
Ahoy, then all in vain
We look; we are alone again.
I have forgotten bells and lights,
And waves which drank
Their jewels up; those days and nights
Which rose and sank
Have turned like other pasts, and fled,
And carried with them all their dead.
But every day that fire ship lights
My distant blue,
And every day glad wonder smites
My heart anew,
How in that instant each could heed
And hear the other's swift God-speed.
Counting by hours thy days and nights
O patient soul, on godlike heights
I passed thee by; tears filled our eyes;
The loud winds mocked and drowned our cries.
The hours go by, with bells and lights;
We sail, we drift;
Our souls in changing tasks and rites,
Find work and shrift.
But this I pray, and praying know
Till faith almost to joy can grow
That hour by hour the bells, the lights
Of sound of flame
Weave spell which ceaselessly recites
To thee a name,
And smiles which thou canst not forget
For thee are suns which never set.
Roberts Brothers, Boston