These verses, written by Arthur L Salmon under the title ‘Sunset by the Exe’ first appeared just before Queen Victoria died. I have copied them from the book Downalong the Exe by J M Slader, (West Country Handbooks 1966). Slader writes, “Before returning to Exeter climb atop Great Haldon. The view covers the whole estuary of the Exe and the hills as far as Honiton and the confines of Somerset. Haldon Belvedere erected about 1780, by Sir Robert Palk in memory of his geat friend Stringer Lawrence is a well known landmark. The last time I stopped here I thought of those enchanting verses by Arthur L Salmon. Was it here that they were written? Was this the inspiration?”
Well maybe! But my own guess is that verses entitled “Sunset by the Exe” were probably inspired on the East bank rather than the West. “Sunrise by the Exe” would be another matter.
SUNSET BY THE EXE
The flood of light falls lingeringly
Where Exe flows out to meet the sea,
And through my heart the flood of dream
Flows deeper with the deepening gleam.
The sun hath touched with loving hand
The stretch of sea, the bars of sand,
And on each crying sea-bird’s wing
His kisses still are quivering.
The world of spirits opens wide-
The sea of soul that hath no tide;
A moment’s vision comes to me
Where Exe flows out to meet the sea.
I pass with sunset’s passing gleam
Into the life that does not dream;
The secret guarded gates unfold
Unto the self that grows not old.
In moments thus, from youth to eld,
Too briefly given, too long withheld
The soul is snatched from time and place
To boundless peace, to boundless space.
The years that come with stain and soil,
For years of hope, the years of toil.
Pass by and leave no least impress
Upon this inmost consciousness.
Where Exe flows forth to meet the sea
This message hath been granted me;
The soul, though fast asleep it lie,
Grows never old, can never die.