Stillness of lilies

I’m sharing another poem by Walter Turner, born in 1886,  he  married Delphine Marguerite Dubuis in the spring of 1918; they had no children, and he was only sixty when he died, and Delphine died just five years later. It seems poignant therefore, that he wrote a poem about a daughter


When I have a daughter I shall name her Petunia:
Petunia, Petunia I shall call her;
In the rooms of my house she shall dance, her small face
So bright that no sorrow ‘ll befall her.
From this dark pot of earth, from this sun-clouded hollow
Like a rainbow she’ll spring and a blue sky shall follow,
Green trees shall blow in and gay fountains of water
Ripple the voice of earth’s last, fairest daughter.
And I’ll teach her the songs of Apollo.

The songs of Apollo that white-armed maidens
Sing in the soft dusks of summer,
In the gardens of Zante the sea-girt, the yellow
Where the black and gold bees hum and clummer;
Where the oranges glowing with sun-stolen fire
Lie in heaps for the galleys of Phocos and Tyre;
Where, orbed in clear water, languidly lying
In green, shallow pools the mermaids, faint crying,
To the Sun in the gold West quire.

In the green of their eyes, in the green of their tresses
The forests of ocean are blowing,
They glint with strange gleams of cold stone and of metal
Through the veins of the blind earth flowing;
Round those wavering, gold, orange-pyramids swimming,
The beading clear water their ivory breasts brimming,
They sing, and, faint-floating, the songs they sing
Through fields and cities and men’s hearts ring,
The glory of mortal life dimming.

From all small-mouthed shells on the shining wet sands
A shadowy roar is fleeting,
The roar of great oceans chained fast to the Moon
From the shores of the dark world retreating:
And the maids who to bright Aphrodite cry
Hear naught but the ebb-tide faintly sigh
Far-off in the dusk, see dark tresses drifting
And the sudden-flashed gleam of white arms lifting
Dim hands in the sable sky.

Warm earth-maids in groups with arms white as the stars
On the edge of the solid world crying,
Their faint shadows trembling in cold, salt pools
Where the Moon at the bottom is lying,
Cry out to the weeds on the bright sea rocking—
The dark-bearded gods in their moon-ships rocking—
On the beach their white bodies in moon-vapour limned
Pale shadows, on cliffs and on water dimmed,
To the bloom of the sea-foam flocking.

Aphrodite! Aphrodite! thou shalt touch and awake her,
She shall gaze on her body in wonder,
She shall bathe in thy foam, in her veins the great tide
Of the world beat its shadowy thunder.
All youth that, of old, lifted hands to the sky
By thine altars shall awaken, shall rise and cry
In her heart the songs by all lovers begun—
As the ghosts of all flowers rise each year to the sun
From where their cold shapes lie.

And wrinkled and worn I shall gaze on her face
And worship the God there sleeping,
The ancient glory that flows up at dawn
Out of earth’s darkness leaping,
I shall remember the beauty of water,
Of stillness, of lilies; in the face of my daughter
Youth’s vanished loveliness I shall find;
The frosts of Winter thy hand shall unbind,
Petunia, Petunia, my daughter!

The dark walls will crumble, the hills glow relighted
My spirit, that slumbering lover
Shall stare at the sky and once more and forever
The stars shall their beauty uncover.
The trees that droop crowding to see their dark limbs
When the dusk of that evening each clear image dims
In the lake of my soul shall quiver and gleam,
And depart—thou, too, Petunia—a Dream
As the earth fades out to its rims.

Walter James Redfern Turner
 Zante is now called Zakynthos  and is a Greek island, a popular holiday destination in the Ionian Sea.
Phocos, now Phocus was the son of Aeacus and Psamathe who was a goddess of sandy beaches; when she was attacked by Aeacus she changed herself into a seal. There are other mythological characters of the same name, so I’m only assuming it was the son of the seal! Phocids, by the way are seals.
Petunias originated in South America.
I have no images of petunias so I am sharing a picture of Tasmanian seals!

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