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Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)

Qua Cursum Ventus


              1As ships, becalm'd at eve, that lay
              2     With canvas drooping, side by side,
              3Two towers of sail at dawn of day
              4     Are scarce long leagues apart descried;

              5When fell the night, upsprung the breeze,
              6     And all the darkling hours they plied,
              7Nor dreamt but each the self-same seas
              8     By each was cleaving, side by side:

              9E'en so--but why the tale reveal
            10     Of those whom, year by year unchang'd,
            11Brief absence join'd anew, to feel,
            12     Astounded, soul from soul estrang'd?

            13At dead of night their sails were fill'd,
            14     And onward each rejoicing steer'd--
            15Ah, neither blame, for neither will'd,
            16     Or wist, what first with dawn appear'd!

            17To veer, how vain! On, onward strain,
            18     Brave barks! In light, in darkness too,
            19Through winds and tides one compass guides--
            20     To that, and your own selves, be true.

            21But O blithe breeze! and O great seas,
            22Though ne'er, that earliest parting past,
            23On your wide plain they join again,
            24     Together lead them home at last.

            25One port, methought, alike they sought,
            26     One purpose hold where'er they fare,--
            27O bounding breeze, O rushing seas!
            28     At last, at last, unite them there!

Notes

1] This lyric appears in a rough draft in a notebook of 1847. It is dated "Oxford 1845?" in a copy of Poems (an 1850 reissue of Ambarvalia) presented by Clough to Charles Eliot Norton. The title is from the &Aelig;neid, III, 269, and may be freely rendered: "As the wind blows, so the vessel takes its course." "Qua Cursum Ventus" records Clough's regret at the estrangement of old friends resulting from the Oxford Movement. In 1845 several of his Oxford associates became Roman Catholics--among them, John Henry Newman, Frederick Faber, and W. G. Ward. If Clough had any one person in mind in writing the poem it was probably his tutor and friend at Balliol, W. G. Ward, but alienations and misunderstandings were so common at the time that it seems unnecessary to seek a precise identification.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Arthur Hugh Clough, Ambarvalia; poems (London: Chapman, 1849). LE B946a ROBA. The standard recent edition of Clough's poetry is The Poems of Arthur Hugh Clough, edited by H. F. Lowry, A. L. P. Norrington and F. L. Mulhauser (Oxford, 1951).
First publication date: 1849
RPO poem editor: Margaret Frances (Sister St. Francis) Nims
RP edition: 3RP 3.194.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/30

Form: Long Hymnal Measure
Rhyme: abab


Other poems by Arthur Hugh Clough