Tabb’s Poetry XXVI

The Lake

I am a lonely woodland lake:
   The trees that round me grow,
The glimpse of heaven above me, make
   The sum of all I know.

The mirror of their dreams to be
   Alike in shade and shine,
To clasp in Love’s captivity,
   And keep them one—is mine. 

The Marsh

The woods have voices, and the sea,
Her choral-song and threnody;
But thou alike to sun and rain
Dost mute and motionless remain.
As pilgrims to the shrine of Sleep,
Through all thy solemn spaces creep
The Tides—a moment on thy breast
To pause in sacramental rest;
Then, flooded with the mystery,
To sink reluctant to the sea,
In landward loneliness to yearn
Till to thy bosom they return. 


Around us lies a world invisible,
   With isles of Dreams, and many a continent
Of Thought, and isthmus Fancy; where we dwell
   Each as a lonely wanderer intent
Upon his vision; finding each his fears
And hopes encompassed by the tide of Tears.

Far off a solitary Peak
   The restless Waves behold.
“Thou hast attained the heaven we seek;
   O teach us, self-controlled,
Thy constancy!” Alas, how bleak
   The mountain top and cold! 

At the Ebb-Tide

O marshes that remain
   In anguish dumb
Till over you again
   The waters come!

So must thy life abide
   In silent pain,
Till Love, the truant tide,
   Come back again.

John B. Tabb

For a recitation, click the play button:

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“The Lake”: Poems, p. 38; Poetry, p. 97. November 1892. According to Jennie Masters Tabb, “This lake was in plain view from the study hall windows and Father Tabb delighted to watch, especially at the twilight time, the changing surface of the waters and the play of light and shade upon them.”

“The Marsh”: Lyrics, p. 78; Poetry, p. 67. January 1896. A threnody is a song of mourning.

“Lone-Land”: Lyrics, p. 140; Poetry, p. 114. June 1895. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas.

“Isolation”: Later Lyrics, p. 20; Poetry, p. 152. 1902.

“At the Ebb-Tide”: Later Poems, p. 41; Poetry, p. 140. February 1905. During the ebb tide, the sea level lowers.

A convert to the Catholic faith, Rev. John Banister Tabb (1845-1909) was a priest of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, and Professor of English at St. Charles’ College, Ellicott City, Maryland. Poems selected, arranged, and annotated by E.L. Core.
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