[Originally published in the Dark Blue, vol. 3 (March 1872): 25-26.]
[NOTE: This is one of two poems not reprinted in The Poetical Works of Mathilde Blind (1900); the other is her sonnet “The Dead.” “Nocturne” appeared in the same issue of Dark Blue as G.A. Henty’s “A Pipe of Opium” and chapter six of Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla.” For more on the Dark Blue, including a discussion of synesthesia (which “Nocturne” embodies), see Anna Marie Jones, “On the publication of Dark Blue, 1871-73” ]
The sweet breeze freshened, the moon shone bright;
We pushed out to sea at the dead of night,
At the dead of night, when the heart beats free,
My Love and I we pushed out to sea.
And wood and valley and hill and stream
As the waning forms of a broken dream,
Or the dying fall of a mournful lay,
Afar in the moonlight faded away.
And speeding swift from the haunts of men,
Our light boat bore our light hearts then,
Swanlike sailing, with wings outspread,
Under the arch of the stars overhead.
The moon, and the small stars caught in her rays,
Struggling pale through the luminous haze,
Saw how fair was my Love, and came
Wandering round her in high-bleached flame.
The sea, and the waves in their fall and rise,
Bosomlike heaving with languid sighs,
Lifted, and tumbled, and broke with desire,
Licked, and fawned on her with tongues of fire.
For what on the earth, the sea, or the air,
Could with my beautiful Love compare?
So delicate subtle pure and intense;
The rich world’s honey and quintessence.
Her eyes, where love like a great light shone,
Thrilled to their depths as they met my own–
Thrilled, and kindled, and flashed in mine,
Luminous tremors of love divine.
As the fierce hot shock of cloud on cloud,
When the lightning leaps through its sultry shroud
Till the whole sky reddens–thus, frame to frame
Flung convulsive, and mixed in flame.
Yea, her whole life swooned into mine, as swoons
The sunset into the broad lagoons;
Ruddy red radiance of sunset that flows
To the sea, till the sea blossoms like a rose.
Low lisped the light wind, low laughed the wave;
The sleek sea rocked us, meek as a slave,
In silver linen the moon us laid,
And sleep o’erlapped us with curtaining shade.
* * * * *
Is it the night-wind sighs in a dream?
Shrills thus through my slumber the sea-gull’s scream,
Wailing afar with a homeless cry?
Dank on my bosom the nigh-dews lie.
Blurred is the moonlight, the starlight is quenched,
The sun-bright locks of my Love are drenched
With a limber mist, that has stealthily crept
Over her limbs while she lay and slept.
Her fervid limbs, and her flower-like face,
They feel so chill in my fond embrace;
And yet she slumbers as deep and mild
In her ocean nest as a cradled child.
Awake, though Dearest! See, yonder the white
Bright moon, the radiant Queen Lily of night,
Strains through wan drifts to gaze down on the sea;
Thus break through thy dream, Love and stream, Love,
Lo, the moon bursts forth in warm splendour and might,
The fiery small stars swarming after her light,
All at once, all together, shine straight from above–
Awfully clear–on the face of my Love.
The face of my Love! My faint body quakes
Like a rattling leaf which the winter-wind shakes;
A curdling horror thickens my breath.
O God! in my Love’s face I meet that of Death!
Icily beautiful! terribly fair!
Her eyes with a wide, blank, lustreless stare
Are fixed upon mine, and the strangling gold
Of her hair coils over me fold upon fold.
Her snow-soft arms freeze round me, like chains
Whose strange cold eats through my burning veins
Till the sick heart rears, and its pulses moan
‘Gainst a heart that is as a heart of stone.
Hide, hide thy light, garish moon, lest I see
The dull, froze, passionless eyes upon me.
Come Darkness engulphs us; black Storms come and hide
The glittering marble that once was a bride!
Rage round us, old Ocean, with primal pain;
Roll over, confounding the forms of the brain;
Roar round with large roarings, trample my head;
Bury the quick that is chained to the dead!
Bury the dead and the quick in one gloom–
One ebbing, and flowing and earth-girdling tomb–
Ever, for ever quench Light, that is shed
As in derision, on sweet Love dead!