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The River Deben

by Stevie Smith

All the waters of the River Deben
Go over my head to the last wave even
Such a death were sweet to seven times seven.

Death sits in the boat with me
His face is shrouded but he smiles I see
The time is not yet, he will not come so readily.

But he smiles and I smile it is pleasnt in the boat at night
There is no moon rising but from the east a light
Shines in the sky its it dawn or dawn's twilight?

Over here the waters are dark as a deep chasm
Shadowed by cliffs of volcanic spasm.
So dark so dark is the wave's fashion

But the oars dip I am rowing they dip and scatter
The phosphorescence in a suddden splatter
Of light that is more actual than a piece of matter.

Up the Deben we row I row towards Waldringfield
It is a long way yet, my arms ache but will not yield
In this physical tiredness there is a happy shield.

Oh happy Deben oh happy nights and night's companion Death
What exultation what ecstasy is in thy breath?
It is as salt as the salt silt that lies beneath.

Flow tidal river flow, draw wind from the east,
Smile pleasant Death, smile Death in Darkness blest,
But tarry day upon the crack of dawn; thou comest unwished.
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