Anna Lydia Ward.

Surf and wave: the sea as sung by the poets online

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At closing day once more I stood,
Gazing across that mighty sea :

Far ships were sailing ;

The light was failing ;
Time lost in immortality
Was the reflection of my mood.

It is the mind, and not the place,
Our mood, and not a varying voice,

That fills with sadness,

Or thrills with gladness,
A soul whose one great ruling choice
Reflects in all things its own face.



DOWN to the wharves, as the sun goes down,
And the daylight's tumult and dust and din
Are dying away in the busy town,
I go to see if my ship comes in.

I gaze far over the quiet sea,

Rosy with sunset like mellow wine,

Where ships like lilies lie tranquilly,
Many and far but I see not mine.

384 MY SHIP.

I question the sailors every night,

Who over the bulwarks idly lean,
Noting the sails as they come in sight :

" Have you seen my beautiful ship come in ? "

"Whence does she come?" they ask of me.

" Who was her master? and what her name? "
And they smile upon me pityingly

When my answer is ever and ever the same.

Oh ! mine was a vessel of strength and truth ;

Her sails were as white as a young lamb's fleece
She sailed long since from the port of Youth ;

Her master was Love, her name was Peace.

And, like all beloved and beauteous things,
She faded in distance and doubt away :

With only a tremble of snowy wings,
She floated swan-like adown the bay,

Carrying with her a precious freight,
All I had gathered by years of pain,

A tempting prize to the pirate Fate :
And still I watch for her back again,

Watch from the earliest morning light

Till the pale stars grieve o'er the dying day,

To catch the gleam of her canvas white
Among the islands which gem the bay.

But she comes not yet : she will never come
To gladden my eyes and my spirit more ;

And my heart grows hopeless and faint and dumb,
As I wait and wait on the lonesome shore,


Knowing that tempest and time and storm

Have wrecked and shattered my beauteous bark :

Rank seaweeds cover her wasting form,

And her sails are tattered and stained and dark.

But the tide comes up, and the tide goes down,
And the daylight follows the night's eclipse \

And still, with the sailors tanned and brown,
I wait on the wharves, and watch the ships.

And still, with a patience that is not hope,

For vain and empty it long hath been,
I sit on the rough shore's rocky slope,

And watch to see if my ship comes in.



DOWN on the sands, when the tide is low,
I sit and dream of " the long ago ; "
The children play at their mother's feet,
And the chime of the waves is hushed and sweet
But a voice drifts over the quiet shore,
And whispers, " The sea shall be no more."

Down on the sands, when the red light pales,
I sit and watch for the fisherman's sails ;
And my heart throbs still with the old, old pain,
For the boat that will never come back again :

But a new world waits for my love and me,

A world of peace where is no more sea.


For God is good, and the gift he gave
Is held a while by the silver wave ;
Not lost, but hidden : I may not weep,
While he is at rest in the solemn deep.
And the voice of an angel speaks to me
Of the fair new home where is no more sea.



" T ISTEN, listen, my children !

JL/ To the voice of the wide salt sea."
" Oh ! we hear it calling, calling,

And the gleam of its waves we see.

" Come up from the wild, strong water ;

We are wet and cold in the spray ;
And the sea it is calling, calling,

Calling our lives away.

" Oh ! sing us a song of the sunshine
That falls upon flowers and trees,

Until we forget the billow,

And the swell of the surging seas ;

" And loosen, loosen, your tresses
All yellow and shining and fair :

Oh ! sing us a song of the sunshine
While we tie up your shimmering hair."

The lady unfastened her tresses

Till they fell in a flood to her knee ;

But the golden hair as she loosed it
Fell shimmering green like the sea.


The lady sang of the sunshine ;

But the children shrank from her knee,
For the musical sound of her singing

Was the rippling voice of the sea.

" Oh, listen, listen, my children !

Shrink not away in fear ;
List to the ocean voices,

And tell me all that ye hear.

" Look over the shining water,

And tell me all that ye see.
Oh, kiss me, kiss me, children !

And will ye remember me ?

" Out on the shining waters

I am going far away ;
For the sea is calling, calling,

To my heart, and I cannot stay."



r T" v HE sea is flecked with bars of gray ;
i The dull, dead wind is out of tune ;

And, like a withered leaf, the moon
Is blown across the stormy bay.

Etched clear upon the pallid sand
The black boat lies : a sailor-boy
Clambers aboard in careless joy,

With laughing face and gleaming hand.


And overhead the curlews cry,

Where, through the dusky upland grass,
The young brown-throated reapers pass,

Like silhouettes against the sky.



light waves kiss the shifting sands,
\_ The deep seas kiss the sky ;
Oh, kiss me once, my only love,
And then good-by, good -by ! "

He kissed her upon cheek and chin,

And on her brow so mild ;
And, when he kissed her on her mouth,

Each wept like wounded child.

" Oh ! I'll go east, and I'll go west,

Far over land and sea ;
But never will my heart find rest

Until it rests with thee."

" And I'll sit here from year to year,

Till my life's stream runs dry ;
But never a face shall thine replace :

My only love, good-by ! "

He wandered east, he wandered west ;

He won gold, lands, and fame,
A gray head, and a weary heart

Then back to the old home came.


The light waves kissed the shifting sands,

And sang the selfsame song :
" I wonder where's the silly lass

I liked when I was young."

He found her at the cottage-door ;

She smiled the same soft smile ;
But when he talked of years to come

She shut her eyes the while.

He kissed her upon cheek and chin,

(They lie, saying love grows old ;)
But, when he kissed her on the mouth,

He shivered at the cold.

He clasped her to his lonely breast,

Beside the sunny sea ;
He spake a hundred passionate words

But never a word spake she.

He loosed her from his longing arms,

That empty aye must be :
" I'll never in this world find rest

Till I rest in earth with thee."



WHY does the Sea moan evermore ?
Shut out from heaven, it makes its moan,
It frets against the boundary shore :
All earth's full rivers cannot fill
The Sea, that drinking, thirsteth still.


Sheer miracles of loveliness
Lie hid in its unlooked-on bed :
Anemones, salt, passionless,
Blow flower-like, just enough alive
To blow and multiply and thrive ;

Shells quaint with curve or spot or spike ;
Incrusted live things, Argus-eyed,
All fair alike, yet all unlike,
Are borri without a pang, and die
Without a pang, and so pass by.



MISSING, no more : a dumb, dead wall
Of silence and darkness stands
Between us and they who left us here,
In the golden morning of the year,
With hope and promise and parting cheer,
Wet eyes, and waving hands.

Never an omen told our hearts
How fate lurked, grim and dark.

Fresh and sweet smiled the April day ;

And the treacherous waves in sunlight lay,

Kissing the sands of the sheltered bay,
And laughing around the bark.

Like molten silver shone her sails

As she glided from our gaze ;
And we turned us back to our homes again,
To let custom grow o'er the yearning pain,
And to count by the hearth ah, labor vain !

The lonely, lingering days.


Never a letter from loving hands,

Never a message, came :
We knew long since should the port be won ;
We knew what the fierce north gale had done ;
And slowly crept over every one

A terror we would not name.

Ah, me ! those weary mornings,

When on the great pier-head
We strained our sight o'er the tossing seas,
And studied each change in the fitful breeze,
And strove to answer in tones of ease

Light questions coldly said.

Ah, me ! those weary midnights,

Hearing the breakers roar ;
Starting from dreams of storm and death,
With beating pulses and catching breath,
To hear the white surf " call " beneath,

Along the hollow shore.

Never a flash down the wires,

Never a word from the East,
From the port she sailed for how long ago !
Why, even a spar one would weep to know,
Tossed on the wild waves' ebb and flow,

Were something real at least.

Missing, missing, and silence

The great tides rise and fall ;
The sea lies dimpling out in the light,
Or dances, all living, gleaming white ;
Day follows day, night rolls on night

Missing, and that is all.


The bark crossed out in the log-book,
The names dropped out of the prayers ;

In many a household a vacant place ;

In many a life a vanished grace :

We know our cast in the long life-race ;
But only God knows theirs.



THE sun is warm, the sky is clear,
The waves are dancing fast and bright,
Blue isles and snowy mountains wear
The purple noon's transparent light
Around its unexpanded buds.
Like many a voice of one delight,
The winds, the birds, the ocean floods,
The city's voice itself is soft, like Solitude's.

I see the Deep's untrampled floor,

With green and purple seaweeds strown ;

I see the waves upon the shore,

Like light dissolved in star- showers, thrown :

I sit upon the sands alone ;

The lightning of the noontide ocean

Is flashing round me, and a tone

Arises from its measured motion.

How sweet ! did any heart now share in my emotion.

Alas ! I have nor hope nor health,
Nor peace within, nor calm around ;
Nor that content, surpassing wealth,
The sage in meditation found,


And walked with inward glory crowned ;

Nor fame, nor power, nor love, nor leisure.

Others I see whom these surround,

Smiling they live, and call life pleasure :

To me that cup has been dealt in another measure.

Yet now despair itself is mild,

Even as the winds and waters are :

I could lie down like a tired child,

And weep away the life of care

Which I have borne, and yet must bear,

Till death, like sleep, might steal on me,

And I might feel in the warm air

My cheek grow cold, and hear the sea

Breathe o'er my dying brain its last monotony.

Some might lament that I were cold,

As I, when this sweet day is gone,

Which my lost heart, too soon grown old,

Insults with this untimely moan.

They might lament ; for I am one

Whom men love not, and yet regret,

Unlike this day, which, when the sun

Shall on its stainless glory set,

Will linger, though enjoyed, like joy in memory yet.



OUT of sight of the heated land,
Over the breezy sea,
Into the reach of the solemn mist
Quietly drifted we.


The sky was as blue as a baby's eye
When it falleth apart in sleep ;

And soft as the touch of its wandering hand,
The swell of the peaceful deep.

Hovered all day in our sluggish wake,

The wonderful petrel's wing,
Following, following, ever afar,

Like the love of a human thing.

The day crept out at the purple west,

Dowered with glories rare ;
Never a sight, and never a sound,

To startle the dreamy air.

The mist behind, and the mist before,

But light in the purple west ;
Until we wearied to turn aside,

And drift to its haunted rest.

But the mist was behind, and the mist before
Rose up like a changeless fate ;

And we turned our faces toward the dark,
And wearily said " Too late ! "

So, with foreheads fronting the far-off south,

We drifted into the mist,
Turning away from the glorious west's

Purple and amethyst.

For the sea and the sky met everywhere,
With the strength of an evil hate ;

And a thunder-cloud came out of the west,
And guarded the sunset gate.


Thou art in the royal, radiant land

That stretcheth across the sea,
And the drifting hours of each weary day

Take me farther from thee.



THE lustrous Moon through the winterly night
Glides, with the stateliest pomp of a queen,
Over filmy cloudlets of pearly white,

And a cold calm sea of transcendent sheen :
The gleam of her robe is reflected there,
And lights up her path like a mermaid's hair ;

Sheds over the tremulous, sleeping sea
A vision of beauty and pure delight,

And softens with fingers of fantasy

The grim gray cliffs' inaccessible height,

Till the soul is lost in a dreamy mist,

And all seemeth lovely the Moon hath kissed.

But something hides in a rift of the rock,
Near a yawning cavern's ominous gloom,

Which the shimmering moonbeams dare not mock
With their lightsome touch j for it tells of doom,

In its silence filling the air with sound,

And the swirl of a tempest all around,

A something with ribs and a broken back,
Skeleton ribs, that are gaunt and grim,

Lying alone in the shadow so black,
A wreck nevemore to be taut and trim,


Nevermore answer to breeze or to blast
With a floating pennon, or straining mast.

Lying there, rotting, by night and by day,
Under that cruel and pitiless crag ;

Only the curlew to watch its decay,
Only the seaweed for pennon and flag :

Nothing but timber and cordage, 'tis true ;

Only a boat but the boat had a crew !



I HEARD, or seemed to hear, the chiding Sea
Say, Pilgrim, why so late and slow to come ?
Am I not always here, thy summer home ?
Is not my voice thy music, morn and eve,
My breath thy healthful climate in the heats,
My touch thy antidote, my bay thy bath ?
Was ever building like my terraces ?
Was ever couch magnificent as mine ?
Lie on the warm rock-ledges, and there learn
A little hut suffices like a town.
I make your sculptured architecture vain,
Vain beside mine. I drive my wedges home,
And carve the coastwise mountain into caves.
Lo ! here is Rome and Nineveh and Thebes,
Karnak and Pyramid, and Giant's Stairs,
Half piled or prostrate ; and my newest slab
Older than all thy race.

Behold the Sea !

The opaline, the plentiful and strong,
Yet beautiful as is the rose in June,


Fresh as the trickling rainbow of July ;

Sea full of food, the nourisher of kinds,

Purger of earth, and medicine of men,

Creating a sweet climate by my breath,

Washing out harms and griefs from memory,

And in my mathematic ebb and flow

Giving a hint of that which changes not.

Rich are the sea- gods : who gives gifts but they ?

They grope the sea for pearls, but more than pearls ;

They pluck force thence, and give it to the wise.

Tor every wave is wealth to Daedalus,

Wealth to the cunning artist who can work

This matchless strength. Where shall he find, O waves !

A load your Atlas shoulders cannot lift ?

I, with my hammer pounding evermore

The rocky coast, smite Andes into dust,

Strewing my bed, and in another age

Rebuild a continent of better men.

Then I unbar the doors : my paths lead out

The exodus of nations : I disperse

Men to all shores that front the hoary main.

I, too, have arts and sorceries :
Illusion dwells forever with the wave.
I know what spells are laid. Leave me to deal
With credulous and imaginative man \
For, though he scoop my water in his palm,
A few rods off he deems it gems and clouds.
Planting strange fruits and sunshine on the shore,
I make some coast alluring, some lone isle,
To distant men, who must go there, or die.




ALONG the shore, along the shore,
I see the wavelets meeting :
But thee I see ah, nevermore,

For all my wild heart's beating.
The little wavelets come and go ;
The tide of life ebbs to and fro,

Advancing and retreating :
But from the shore, the steadfast shore,

The sea is parted never,
And mine I hold thee evermore,

Forever and forever.

Along the shore, along the shore,

I hear the waves resounding ;
But thou wilt cross them nevermore

For all my wild heart's bounding.
The moon comes out above the tide,
And quiets all the waters wide

Her pathway bright surrounding :
While on the shore, the dreary shore,

I walk with weak endeavor,
I have thy light's love evermore,

Forever and foreVer.



AS by the shore, at break of day,
A vanquished chief expiring lay,
Upon the sands, with broken sword,
He traced his farewell to the free ;
And there the last unfinished word
He dying wrote was " Liberty ! "


At night a sea-bird shrieked the knell
Of him who thus for freedom fell.
The words he wrote, ere evening came,
Were covered by the sounding sea :
So passed away the cause and name
Of him who died for liberty.



E tide has ebbed away ;

No more wild.dashings 'gainst the adamant rocks,
Nor swayings amidst seaweed false that mocks
The hues of gardens gay ;
No laugh of little wavelets at their play ;
No lucid pools reflecting heaven's clear brow :
Both storm and calm alike are ended now.

The rocks sit gray and lone :
The shifting sand is spread so smooth and dry
That not a tide might ever have swept by

Stirring it with rude moan ;

Only some weedy fragments idly thrown
To rot beneath the sky, till what has been
But desolation's self has grown serene.

Afar the mountains rise,
And the broad estuary widens out,
All sunshine : wheeling round and round about

Seaward, a white bird flies.

A bird ? Nay, seems it rather in these eyes
A spirit, o'er eternity's dim sea
Calling, " Come thou where all we glad souls be."


O life ! O silent shore !

Where we all sit patient ; O great sea beyond !
To which we turn with solemn hope and fond,

But sorrowful no more,

A little while, and then we, too, shall soar
Like white-winged sea-birds into the infinite deep :
Till then, thou, Father, wilt our spirits keep.



E wave that floods the trembling shore,
JL And desolates the strand,
In ebbing leaves, mid wreck and froth,
A shell upon the sand.

So troubles oft o'erwhelm the soul,

And shake the constant mind,
That in retreating leave a pearl

Of memory behind.



FROM heaven dropped a tear, which thought to be
Forever lost within the sea.
A shell enclosing it said, " Have no fear,
For thou shalt be my pearl, O tear !
Fear not the mighty waves, but trust to me
To bear thee through them in security.
Oh, thou, my joy, of all my joys the best,
Thou heavenly tear within my breast !


The pearliest of thy tears thou'st given to me,
O Heaven ! to guard and keep for thee."



HOPES on hopes from the bosom sever ;
But the heart hopes on, unchanging ever :
Wave after wave breaks on the shore ;
But the sea is as deep as it was before.

That the billows heave with a ceaseless motion
Is the very life of the throbbing ocean ;
And hopes that from day to day upstart
Are the swelling wave-beats of the heart.



LOVE launched a fairy-boat
To sail the wide sea over ;
And he laughed to lie and float
Beneath the white sail's cover.

His boat a sea-shell fair,

His sail a white swan's feather :
Love like a pearl lay there,

While all was summer weather.

'Tis Love's to love the sea
In soft and summer weather ;

'Tis Love's to love to be
With his heart's love together.


Love launched a mighty ship
To bear fierce storms and battle,

Tossed in the tempest's grip,
Rocked to the cannon's rattle.

Love stood upon the deck,

With Death around and under ;

Laughed at the rocks that wreck,
Laughed at battle's thunder.

'Tis Love's to love the wave,
With storms or battle frowning ;

'Tis Love's to love to brave

Life's worst to win Love's crowning.



I WALKED beside a dark gray sea,
And said, " O world, how cold thou art !
Thou poor, white world, I pity thee,
For joy and warmth from thee depart.

" Yon rising wave licks off the snow ;

Winds on the crag each other chase,
In little powdery whirls they blow

The misty fragments down its face.

" The sea is cold, and dark its rim ;

Winter sits cowering on the wold ;
And I, beside this watery brim,

Am also lonely, also cold."


I spoke, and drew toward a rock,

Where many mews made twittering sweet ;

Their wings upreared, the clustering flock
Did pat the sea-grass with their feet.

A rock but half submerged, the sea
Ran up, and washed it while they fed :

Their fond and foolish ecstasy
A wondering in my fancy bred.

Joy companied with every cry,
Joy in their food, in that keen wind,

That heaving sea, that shaded sky,
And in themselves, and in their kind.

The phantoms of the deep at play :

What idless graced the twittering things !

Luxurious paddlings in the spray,
And delicate lifting up of wings.

Then all at once a flight, and fast

The lovely crowd flew out to sea :
If mine own life had been recast,

Earth had not looked more changed to me.

" Where is the cold ? Yon clouded skies
Have only dropped their curtains low

To shade the old mother where she lies,
Sleeping a little, 'neath the snow.

" The cold is not in crag nor scar,

Not in the snows that lap the lea,
Not in yon wings that beat afar,

Delighting on the crested sea.


" No, nor in yon exultant wind

That shakes the oak, and bends the pine :

Look near, look in, and thou shalt find
No sense of cold, fond fool, but thine ! "

With that I felt the gloom depart ;

And thoughts within me did unfold,
Whose sunshine warmed me to the heart :

I walked in joy, and was not cold.



I SAW a thousand fearful wrecks ;
A thousand men that fishes gnawed upon ;
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
All scattered in the bottom of the sea.
Some lay in dead men's skulls ; and in those holes
Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept
(As 'twere in scorn of eyes) reflecting gems,
That wooed the slimy bottom of the deep,
And mocked the dead bones that lay scattered by.



WHO would be
A merman bold,
Sitting alone,
Singing alone,
Under the sea,
With a crown of gold,
On a throne ?



I would be a merman bold.
I would sit and sing the whole of the day ;
I would fill the sea-halls with a voice of power ;
But at night I would roam abroad, and play
With the mermaids in and out of the rocks,
Dressing their hair with the white sea-flower ;
And, holding them back by their flowing locks,
I would kiss them often under the sea,
And kiss them again till they kissed me

Laughingly, laughingly ;
And then we would wander away, away,
To the pale- green sea-groves straight and high,

Chasing each other merrily.


There would be neither moon nor star ;

But the wave would make music above us afar,

Low thunder and light in the magic night,

Neither moon nor star.
We would call aloud in the dreamy dells,
Call to each other, and whoop and cry

All night, merrily, merrily.

They would pelt me with starry spangles and shells,
Laughing, and clapping their hands between,

All night, merrily, merrily ;
But I would throw to them back in mine
Turkois and agate and almondine,
Then, leaping out upon them unseen,
I would kiss them often under the sea,
And kiss them again till they kissed me

Laughingly, laughingly.


Oh ! what a happy life were mine
Under the hollow-hung ocean green.
Soft are the moss-beds under the sea :
We would live merrily, merrily.



WHO would be
A mermaid fair,
Singing alone,
Combing her hair
Under the sea,
In a golden curl
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne ?


I would be a mermaid fair.
I would sing to myself the whole of the day ;
With a comb of pearl I would comb my hair ;
And still as I combed I would sing, and say,
" Who is it loves me? who loves not me? "
I would comb my hair till my ringlets would fall,

Low adown, low adown,
From under my starry sea-bud crown,

Low adown and around ;
And I should look like a fountain of gold

Springing alone
With a shrill inner-sound.

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Online LibraryAnna Lydia WardSurf and wave: the sea as sung by the poets → online text (page 17 of 28)