The War of the Ghosts

Original Text: 
The Complete Poetical Works of William Gay , ed. J. Glen Oliphant (Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1911): 79-82. Internet Archive; Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit: http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/oztexts
I
1Three Ghosts that haunt me have I,
2    Three Ghosts in my soul that fight,
3Three grandsire Ghosts in my soul,
4    That haunt me by day and by night.
II
5The first was a dark mountaineer,
6    Who hunted with arrow and knife,
7To whom the turf was a bed,
8    And the wind of the moorland was life.
9And the next was a mariner rude,
10    Whose home and whose grave was the sea,
11For whom the land was a prison
12    And only the ocean was free.
13And the last was a shrunken recluse,
14    Who lived with the dust and the gloom
15And wrote of the Saints and of Him
16    Who went for us to His doom.
III
17And all through the days and years
18    These ancient Ghosts contend,
19And my soul is a battle-field
20    Of passions that pierce and rend.
21And whenever a sunbeam alights
22    All gleaming and fresh on my page,
23I am wild for the hills and the bush,
24    I am torn with the hunter's rage.
25I am sick of the smell of a book,
26    I am off with the dogs or a gun,
27Or I gallop my fifty miles
28    Before the set of the sun.
29And yet from some loftier peak
30    When I catch the scent of the wave,
31When I look on the sea from afar,
32    I feel like one in a grave;
33And I long for a ship full-sailed
34    And an ocean wide on the lee--
35I choke on the solid land
IV
37Yet ever the battle goes on,
38    And ever there rises a day
39When the Ghosts of the wave and the wood
40    To the Ghost of the cell give way.
41Then the land is a wilderness drear,
42    And dismal and vast is the sea,
43But cloistered in peace with my books
44    My soul is uplifted and free.
V
45Three Ghosts that haunt me have I,
46    Three Ghosts in my soul that fight,
47Three grandsire Ghosts in my soul,
48    That haunt me by day and by night.
49Yet ofttimes there joins in the fray
50    One gross and sluggish of limb,
51No spectre is he but a man,
52    Whose strokes are heavy and grim.
53For a man is not nothing, I swear,
54    Nor a braggart am I when I boast
55That though he be slothful or sleep,
56    A man is more than a ghost.
57And my soul is my own, I aver,
58    The master and lord of it I,
59And whenever I will to bestir,
60    All ghostly usurpers shall fly.
61Then I what is mine will assume,
62    Nor diverge from the path of my will.
63Though the Ghosts I have routed still call
64    From the desk and the sea and the hill.

Notes

36] undulant: wavy. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: 
2011
Rhyme: 
Form: