The Island of Skyros
Here, where we stood together, we three men,
Before the war had swept us to the East
Three thousand miles away, I stand again
And hear the bells, and breathe, and go to feast.
We trod the same path, to the selfsame place,
Yet here I stand, having beheld their graves,
Skyros whose shadows the great seas erase,
And Seddul Bahr that ever more blood craves.
So, since we communed here, our bones have been
Nearer, perhaps, than they again will be,
Earth and the worldwide battle lie between,
Death lies between, and friend-destroying sea.
Yet here, a year ago, we talked and stood
As I stand now, with pulses beating blood.
I saw her like a shadow on the sky
In the last light, a blur upon the sea,
Then the gale’s darkness put the shadow by,
But from one grave that island talked to me;
And, in the midnight, in the breaking storm,
I saw its blackness and a blinking light,
And thought, “So death obscures your gentle form,
So memory strives to make the darkness bright;
And, in that heap of rocks, your body lies,
Part of the island till the planet ends,
My gentle comrade, beautiful and wise,
Part of this crag this bitter surge offends,
While I, who pass, a little obscure thing,
War with this force, and breathe, and am its king.”
Whee. This made more sense once I realized these are two separate sonnets. But I’m still confused by the “she” in the second.
I thought “she” was the island – not sure, though. As you probably guessed, the poem is meant to be an elegy for Rupert Brooke.
I had wondered, but hadn’t gotten as confident as actually guessing it.
And — ah — I was reading “that island” as a third entity: switching distance makes more sense.