Studies By The Sea

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Ah! wherefore do the incurious say,
That this stupendous ocean wide,
No change presents from day to day,
Save only the alternate tide;
Or save when gales of summer glide
Across the lightly crisped wave;
Or, when against the cliff’s rough side,
As equinoctial tempests rave,
It wildly bursts; o’erwhelms the deluged strand,
Tears down its bounds, and desolates the land ?

He who with more enquiring eyes
Doth this extensive scene survey,
Beholds innumerous changes rise,
As various winds its surface sway;
Now o’er its heaving bosom play
Small sparkling waves of silver gleam,
And as they lightly glide away
Illume with fluctuating beam
The deepening surge; green as the dewy corn
That undulates in April’s breezy morn.
The far off waters then assume
A glowing amethystine shade,
That changing like the peacock’s plume
Seems in celestial blue to fade;

Or paler, colder hues of lead,
As lurid vapours float on high,
Along the ruffling billows spread,
While darkly lours the threatening sky;
And the small scatter’d barks with outspread shrouds,
Catch the long gleams, that fall between the clouds.
Then day’s bright star with blunted rays
Seems struggling thro’ the sea-fog pale,
And doubtful in the heavy haze,
Is dimly seen the nearing sail;
‘Till from the land a fresher gale
Disperses the white mist, and clear,
As melts away the gauzy veil,
The sun-reflecting waves appear;

So, brighter genuine virtue seems to rise
From envy’s dark invidious calumnies.
What glories on the sun attend,
When the full tides of evening flow,
Where in still changing beauty, blend
With amber light, the opal’s glow;
While in the east the diamond bow
Rises in virgin lustre bright,
And from the horizon seems to throw,
A partial line of trembling light
To the hush’d shore; and all the tranquil deep
Beneath the modest moon, is sooth’d to sleep.

Forgotten then, the thundering break
Of waves, that in the tempest rise,
The falling cliff, the shatter’d wreck,
The howling blast, the sufferer’s cries;
For soft the breeze of evening sighs,
And murmuring seems in Fancy’s ear
To whisper fairy lullabies,
That tributary waters bear
From precipices, dark with piny woods,
And inland rocks, and heathy solitudes.
The vast encircling seas within,
What endless swarms of creatures hide ,
Of burnish’d scale, and spiny fin !
These providential instincts guide,

And bid them know the annual tide,
When, from unfathom’d waves that swell,
Beyond Fuego’s stormy side,
They come, to cheer the tribes that dwell
In Boreal climes; and thro’ his half year’s night
Give to the Lapland savage, food and light.
From cliffs, that pierce the northern sky;
Where eagles rear their sanguine brood,
With long awaiting patient eye,
Baffled by many a sailing cloud,
The Highland native marks the flood,
Till bright the quickening billows roll,
And hosts of sea-birds, clamouring loud,
Track with wild wing the welcome shoal,

Swift o’er the animated current sweep,
And bear their silver captives from the deep.
Sons of the North ! your streamy vales
With no rich sheaves rejoice and sing;
Her flowery robe no fruit conceals,
Tho’ sweetly smile your tardy spring;
Yet every mountain, clothed with ling,
Doth from its purple brow survey
Your busy sails, that ceaseless bring
To the broad frith, and sheltering bay,
Riches, by Heaven’s parental power supplied,­
The harvest of the far embracing tide.

And, where those fractur’d mountains lift
O’er the blue wave their towering crest,
Each salient ledge and hollow cleft
To sea-fowl give a rugged nest.
But with instinctive love is drest
The Eider’s downy cradle; where
The mother-bird, her glossy breast
Devotes, and with maternal care,
And plumeless bosom, stems the toiling seas,
That foam round the tempestuous Orcades.
From heights, whence shuddering sense recoils,
And cloud-capped headlands, steep and bare,
Sons of the North ! your venturous toils
Collect your poor and scanty fare.

Urged by imperious Want, you dare
Scale the loose cliff, where Gannets hide,
Or scarce suspended, in the air
Hang perilous; and thus provide
The soft voluptuous couch, which not secures
To Luxury’s pamper’d minions, sleep like yours.
Revolving still, the waves that now
Just ripple on the level shore,
Have borne perchance the Indian’s prow,
Or half congeal’d, ‘mid ice rocks hoar,
Raved to the Walrus’ hollow roar;
Or have by currents swift convey’d
To the cold coast of Labrador,
The relics of the tropic shade;

And to the wondering Esquimaux have shown
Leaves of strange shape, and fruits unlike their own.
No more then, let the incurious say,
No change this world of water shows,
But as the tides the moon obey,
Or tempests rave, or calms repose.­
Shew them, its bounteous breast bestows
On myriads life; and bid them see
In every wave that circling flows,
Beauty and use, and harmony­
Works of the Power Supreme, who poured the flood,
Round the green peopled earth, and call’d it good !

 

– Charlotte Smith

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