THE darkness gripped us, hot, intense;
The sea snored like some sleeping brute;
We stood alert, with every sense
Like some leashed hound, nerve-thrilled, acute.
About us clammy dew made wet
The thin, green leaves and sleeping flowers;
Strained eyes against the night we set;
Strained ears, like open doors, were ours.
No sight! save when across the black
Broad breast of night fierce lightning tore
A ragged gash, a serpent track,
And thunder answered the sea's snore.
One sighed, and one would no more stand
At easeless rest, but drooping walked;
Then, though none spoke, one raised his hand
As if to silence tongues that talked.
We heard it! On the granite ground
It sounded nigh, and on the beach
It grew remote; upon that sound
With seeking eyes each questioned each.
Grouped close, like men of carven stone —
Chilled stone — we stood with rooted feet.
'He comes! What news?' Not hoofs alone
In that tense moment swiftly beat.
Cried one: 'Joy rides at such a pace,
Joy swift of hoof, and light as air!'
Said one — eyes sunk, and pallid face —
'So too, at times, rides dread Despair!'
We waited, vexed by dumb surmise,
Eyes wide, lips wide, tense faces white;
Ears served till ears gave place to eyes,
Sound likewise yielding unto sight.
He came with headlong speed and dash,
Fierce lightning lighting land and sea,
And in that red, revealing flash
He rose and shouted 'Victory!'