It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often ’tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from where it sometime fell.
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh, ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody—
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth and brood,
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired!
– John Keats
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A city clerk, but gently born and bred;
His wife, an unknown artist’s orphan child-
One babe was theirs, a Margaret, three years old:
They, thinking that her clear germander eye
Droopt in the giant-factoried city-gloom,
Came, with a month’s leave given them, to the sea:
For which his gains were dock’d, however small:
Small were his gains, and hard his work; besides,
Their slender household fortunes (for the man
Had risk’d his little) like the little thrift,
Trembled in perilous places o’er a deep:
And oft, when sitting all alone, his face
Would darken, as he cursed his credulousness,
And that one unctuous mount which lured him, rogue,
To buy strange shares in some Peruvian mine.
Now seaward-bound for health they gain’d a coast,
All sand and cliff and deep-inrunning cave,
At close of day; slept, woke, and went the next,
The Sabbath, pious variers from the church,
To chapel; where a heated pulpiteer,
Not preaching simple Christ to simple men,
Announced the coming doom, and fulminated
Against the scarlet woman and her creed:
For sideways up he swung his arms, and shriek’d
`Thus, thus with violence,’ ev’n as if he held
The Apocalyptic millstone, and himself
Were that great Angel; `Thus with violence
Shall Babylon be cast into the sea;
Then comes the close.’ The gentle-hearted wife
Sat shuddering at the ruin of a world;
He at his own: but when the wordy storm
Had ended, forth they came and paced the shore,
Ran in and out the long sea-framing caves,
Drank the large air, and saw, but scarce believed
(The sootflake of so many a summer still
Clung to their fancies) that they saw, the sea.
So now on sand they walk’d, and now on cliff,
Lingering about the thymy promontories,
Till all the sails were darken’d in the west,
And rosed in the east: then homeward and to bed:
Where she, who kept a tender Christian hope
Haunting a holy text, and still to that
Returning, as the bird returns, at night,
`Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,’
Said, `Love, forgive him:’ but he did not speak;
And silenced by that silence lay the wife,
Remembering her dear Lord who died for all,
And musing on the little lives of men,
And how they mar this little by their feuds.
But while the two were sleeping, a full tide
Rose with ground-swell, which, on the foremost rocks
Touching, upjetted in spirts of wild sea-smoke,
And scaled in sheets of wasteful foam, and fell
In vast sea-cataracts- ever and anon
Dead claps of thunder from within the cliffs
Heard thro’ the living roar. At this the babe,
Their Margaret cradled near them, wail’d and woke
The mother, and the father suddenly cried,
`A wreck, a wreck! ‘ then turn’d, and groaning said,
`Forgive! How many will say, ‘forgive,’ and find
A sort of absolution in the sound
To hate a little longer! No; the sin
That neither God nor man can well forgive,
Hypocrisy, I saw it in him at once.
Is it so true that second thoughts are best?
Not first, and third, which are a riper first?
Too ripe, too late! they come too late for use.
Ah love, there surely lives in man and beast
Something divine to warn them of their foes:
And such a sense, when first I fronted him,
Said, ‘trust him not; ‘ but after, when I came
To know him more, I lost it, knew him less;
Fought with what seem’d my own uncharity;
Sat at his table; drank his costly wines;
Made more and more allowance for his talk;
Went further, fool! and trusted him with all,
All my poor scrapings from a dozen years
Of dust and deskwork: there is no such mine,
None; but a gulf of ruin, swallowing gold,
Not making. Ruin’d! ruin’d! the sea roars
Ruin: a fearful night! ‘
`Not fearful; fair,’
Said the good wife, `if every star in heaven
Can make it fair: you do but bear the tide.
Had you ill dreams? ‘
`O yes,’ he said, `I dream’d
Of such a tide swelling toward the land,
And I from out the boundless outer deep
Swept with it to the shore, and enter’d one
Of those dark caves that run beneath the cliffs.
I thought the motion of the boundless deep
Bore through the cave, and I was heaved upon it
In darkness: then I saw one lovely star
Larger and larger. ‘What a world,’ I thought,
‘To live in! ‘ but in moving I found
Only the landward exit of the cave,
Bright with the sun upon the stream beyond:
And near the light a giant woman sat,
All over earthy, like a piece of earth,
A pickaxe in her hand: then out I slipt
Into a land all of sun and blossom, trees
As high as heaven, and every bird that sings:
And here the night-light flickering in my eyes
`That was then your dream,’ she said,
`Not sad, but sweet.’
`So sweet, I lay,’ said he,
`And mused upon it, drifting up the stream
In fancy, till I slept again, and pieced
The broken vision; for I dream’d that still
The motion of the great deep bore me on,
And that the woman walk’d upon the brink:
I wonder’d at her strength, and ask’d her of it:
‘It came,’ she said, ‘by working in the mines:’
O then to ask her of my shares, I thought;
And ask’d; but not a word; she shook her head.
And then the motion of the current ceased,
And there was rolling thunder; and we reach’d
A mountain, like a wall of burs and thorns;
But she with her strong feet up the steep hill
Trod out a path: I follow’d; and at top
She pointed seaward: there a fleet of glass,
That seem’d a fleet of jewels under me,
Sailing along before a gloomy cloud
That not one moment ceased to thunder, past
In sunshine: right across its track there lay,
Down in the water, a long reef of gold,
Or what seem’d gold: and I was glad at first
To think that in our often-ransack’d world
Still so much gold was left; and then I fear’d
Lest the gay navy there should splinter on it,
And fearing waved my arm to warn them off;
An idle signal, for the brittle fleet
(I thought I could have died to save it) near’d,
Touch’d, clink’d, and clash’d, and vanish’d, and I woke,
I heard the clash so clearly. Now I see
My dream was Life; the woman honest Work;
And my poor venture but a fleet of glass
Wreck’d on a reef of visionary gold.’
`Nay,’ said the kindly wife to comfort him,
`You raised your arm, you tumbled down and broke
The glass with little Margaret’s medicine it it;
And, breaking that, you made and broke your dream:
A trifle makes a dream, a trifle breaks.’
`No trifle,’ groan’d the husband; `yesterday
I met him suddenly in the street, and ask’d
That which I ask’d the woman in my dream.
Like her, he shook his head. ‘Show me the books! ‘
He dodged me with a long and loose account.
‘The books, the books! ‘ but he, he could not wait,
Bound on a matter he of life and death:
When the great Books (see Daniel seven and ten)
Were open’d, I should find he meant me well;
And then began to bloat himself, and ooze
All over with the fat affectionate smile
That makes the widow lean. ‘My dearest friend,
Have faith, have faith! We live by faith,’ said he;
‘And all things work together for the good
Of those’- it makes me sick to quote him- last
Gript my hand hard, and with God-bless-you went.
I stood like one that had received a blow:
I found a hard friend in his loose accounts,
A loose one in the hard grip of his hand,
A curse in his God-bless-you: then my eyes
Pursued him down the street, and far away,
Among the honest shoulders of the crowd,
Read rascal in the motions of his back,
And scoundrel in the supple-sliding knee.’
`Was he so bound, poor soul? ‘ said the good wife;
`So are we all: but do not call him, love,
Before you prove him, rogue, and proved, forgive.
His gain is loss; for he that wrongs his friend
Wrongs himself more, and ever bears about
A silent court of justice in his breast,
Himself the judge and jury, and himself
The prisoner at the bar, ever condemn’d:
And that drags down his life: then comes what comes
Hereafter: and he meant, he said he meant,
Perhaps he meant, or partly meant, you well.’
` ‘With all his conscience and one eye askew’-
Love, let me quote these lines, that you may learn
A man is likewise counsel for himself,
Too often, in that silent court of yours-
‘With all his conscience and one eye askew,
So false, he partly took himself for true;
Whose pious talk, when most his heart was dry,
Made wet the crafty crowsfoot round his eye;
Who, never naming God except for gain,
So never took that useful name in vain;
Made Him his catspaw and the Cross his tool,
And Christ the bait to trap his dupe and fool;
Nor deeds of gift, but gifts of grace he forged,
And snakelike slimed his victim ere he gorged;
And oft at Bible meetings, o’er the rest
Arising, did his holy oily best,
Dropping the too rough H in Hell and Heaven,
To spread the Word by which himself had thriven.’
How like you this old satire? ‘
`Nay,’ she said
`I loathe it: he had never kindly heart,
Nor ever cared to better his own kind,
Who first wrote satire, with no pity in it.
But will you hear MY dream, for I had one
That altogether went to music? Still
It awed me.’
Then she told it, having dream’d
Of that same coast.
– But round the North, a light,
A belt, it seem’d, of luminous vapor, lay,
And ever in it a low musical note
Swell’d up and died; and, as it swell’d, a ridge
Of breaker issued from the belt, and still
Grew with the growing note, and when the note
Had reach’d a thunderous fullness, on those cliffs
Broke, mixt with awful light (the same as that
Living within the belt) whereby she saw
That all those lines of cliffs were cliffs no more,
But huge cathedral fronts of every age,
Grave, florid, stern, as far as eye could see.
One after one: and then the great ridge drew,
Lessening to the lessening music, back,
And past into the belt and swell’d again
Slowly to music: ever when it broke
The statues, king or saint, or founder fell;
Then from the gaps and chasms of ruin left
Came men and women in dark clusters round,
Some crying, ‘Set them up! they shall not fall! ‘
And others ‘Let them lie, for they have fall’n.’
And still they strove and wrangled: and she grieved
In her strange dream, she knew not why, to find
Their wildest wailings never out of tune
With that sweet note; and ever as their shrieks
Ran highest up the gamut, that great wave
Returning, while none mark’d it, on the crowd
Broke, mixt with awful light, and show’d their eyes
Glaring, and passionate looks, and swept away
The men of flesh and blood, and men of stone,
To the waste deeps together.
`Then I fixt
My wistful eyes on two fair images,
Both crown’d with stars and high among the stars,-
The Virgin Mother standing with her child
High up on one of those dark minster-fronts-
Till she began to totter, and the child
Clung to the mother, and sent out a cry
Which mixt with little Margaret’s, and I woke,
And my dream awed me:- well- but what are dreams?
Yours came but from the breaking of a glass,
And mine but from the crying of a child.’
`Child? No! ‘ said he, `but this tide’s roar, and his,
Our Boanerges with his threats of doom,
And loud-lung’d Antibabylonianisms
(Altho’ I grant but little music there)
Went both to make your dream: but if there were
A music harmonizing our wild cries,
Sphere-music such as that you dream’d about,
Why, that would make our passions far too like
The discords dear to the musician. No-
One shriek of hate would jar all the hymns of heaven:
True Devils with no ear, they howl in tune
With nothing but the Devil! ‘
One of our town, but later by an hour
Here than ourselves, spoke with me on the shore;
While you were running down the sands, and made
The dimpled flounce of the sea-furbelow flap,
Good man, to please the child. She brought strange news.
Why were you silent when I spoke to-night?
I had set my heart on your forgiving him
Before you knew. We MUST forgive the dead.’
`Dead! who is dead? ‘
`The man your eye pursued.
A little after you had parted with him,
He suddenly dropt dead of heart-disease.’
`Dead? he? of heart-disease? what heart had he
To die of? dead! ‘
`Ah, dearest, if there be
A devil in man, there is an angel too,
And if he did that wrong you charge him with,
His angel broke his heart. But your rough voice
(You spoke so loud) has roused the child again.
Sleep, little birdie, sleep! will she not sleep
Without her ‘little birdie? ‘ well then, sleep,
And I will sing you ‘birdie.”
The woman half turn’d round from him she loved,
Left him one hand, and reaching thro’ the night
Her other, found (for it was close beside)
And half embraced the basket cradle-head
With one soft arm, which, like the pliant bough
That moving moves the nest and nestling, sway’d
The cradle, while she sang this baby song.
What does the little birdie say
In her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away.
Birdie, rest a little longer,
Till the little wings are stronger.
So she rests a little longer,
Then she flies away.
What does little baby say,
In her bed at peep of day?
Baby says, like little birdie,
Let me rise and fly away.
Baby, sleep a little longer,
Till the little limbs are stronger.
If she sleeps a little longer,
Baby too shall fly away.
`She sleeps: let us too, let all evil, sleep.
He also sleeps- another sleep than ours.
He can do no more wrong: forgive him, dear,
And I shall sleep the sounder! ‘
Then the man,
`His deeds yet live, the worst is yet to come.
Yet let your sleep for this one night be sound:
I do forgive him! ‘
`Thanks, my love,’ she said,
`Your own will be the sweeter,’ and they slept.
– Alfred Lord Tennyson
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There are certain things -a spider, a ghost,
The income-tax, gout, an umbrella for three –
That I hate, but the thing that I hate the most
Is a thing they call the SEA.
Pour some salt water over the floor –
Ugly I’m sure you’ll allow it to be:
Suppose it extended a mile or more,
That’s very like the SEA.
Beat a dog till it howls outright –
Cruel, but all very well for a spree;
Suppose that one did so day and night,
That would be like the SEA.
I had a vision of nursery-maids;
Tens of thousands passed by me –
All leading children with wooden spades,
And this was by the SEA.
Who invented those spades of wood?
Who was it cut them out of the tree?
None, I think, but an idiot could –
Or one that loved the SEA.
It is pleasant and dreamy, no doubt, to float
With `thoughts as boundless, and souls as free’;
But suppose you are very unwell in a boat,
How do you like the SEA.
There is an insect that people avoid
(Whence is derived the verb `to flee’)
Where have you been by it most annoyed?
In lodgings by the SEA.
If you like coffee with sand for dregs,
A decided hint of salt in your tea,
And a fishy taste in the very eggs –
By all means choose the SEA.
And if, with these dainties to drink and eat,
You prefer not a vestige of grass or tree,
And a chronic state of wet in your feet,
Then -I recommend the SEA.
For I have friends who dwell by the coast,
Pleasant friends they are to me!
It is when I’m with them I wonder most
That anyone likes the SEA.
They take me a walk: though tired and stiff,
To climb the heights I madly agree:
And, after a tumble or so from the cliff,
They kindly suggest the SEA.
I try the rocks, and I think it cool
That they laugh with such an excess of glee,
As I heavily slip into every pool,
That skirts the cold, cold SEA.
– Lewis Carroll
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Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child,
leaving his bed, wander’d alone, bare-headed, barefoot,
Down from the shower’d halo,
Up from the mystic play of shadows, twining and twisting as if they
Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories, sad brother–from the fitful risings and fallings
From under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with
From those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the
From the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
From the myriad thence-arous’d words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
From such, as now they start, the scene revisiting,
As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
Borne hither–ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
A man–yet by these tears a little boy again,
Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter, 20
Taking all hints to use them–but swiftly leaping beyond them,
A reminiscence sing.
When the snows had melted–when the lilac-scent was in the air, and
the Fifth-month grass was growing,
Up this sea-shore, in some briers,
Two guests from Alabama–two together,
And their nest, and four light-green eggs, spotted with brown,
And every day the he-bird, to and fro, near at hand,
And every day the she-bird, crouch’d on her nest, silent, with bright
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.
Shine! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great Sun!
While we bask–we two together.
Winds blow South, or winds blow North,
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together. 40
Till of a sudden,
May-be kill’d, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouch’d not on the nest,
Nor return’d that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appear’d again.
And thenceforward, all summer, in the sound of the sea,
And at night, under the full of the moon, in calmer weather,
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Or flitting from brier to brier by day,
I saw, I heard at intervals, the remaining one, the he-bird, 50
The solitary guest from Alabama.
Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up, sea-winds, along Paumanok’s shore!
I wait and I wait, till you blow my mate to me.
Yes, when the stars glisten’d,
All night long, on the prong of a moss-scallop’d stake,
Down, almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer, wonderful, causing tears.
He call’d on his mate;
He pour’d forth the meanings which I, of all men, know. 60
Yes, my brother, I know;
The rest might not–but I have treasur’d every note;
For once, and more than once, dimly, down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights
after their sorts,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen’d long and long.
Listen’d, to keep, to sing–now translating the notes,
Following you, my brother. 70
Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind, embracing and lapping, every one close,
But my love soothes not me, not me.
Low hangs the moon–it rose late;
O it is lagging–O I think it is heavy with love, with love.
O madly the sea pushes, pushes upon the land,
With love–with love.
O night! do I not see my love fluttering out there among the
What is that little black thing I see there in the white? 80
Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!
High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves;
Surely you must know who is here, is here;
You must know who I am, my love.
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
O it is the shape, the shape of my mate!
O moon, do not keep her from me any longer.
Land! land! O land! 90
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my mate back again,
if you only would;
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.
O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.
O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth;
Somewhere listening to catch you, must be the one I want.
Shake out, carols!
Solitary here–the night’s carols! 100
Carols of lonesome love! Death’s carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O, under that moon, where she droops almost down into the sea!
O reckless, despairing carols.
But soft! sink low;
Soft! let me just murmur;
And do you wait a moment, you husky-noised sea;
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
So faint–I must be still, be still to listen;
But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to
Hither, my love!
Here I am! Here!
With this just-sustain’d note I announce myself to you;
This gentle call is for you, my love, for you.
Do not be decoy’d elsewhere!
That is the whistle of the wind–it is not my voice;
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray;
Those are the shadows of leaves.
O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful. 120
O brown halo in the sky, near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing heart!
O all–and I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.
Yet I murmur, murmur on!
O murmurs–you yourselves make me continue to sing, I know not why.
O past! O life! O songs of joy!
In the air–in the woods–over fields;
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my love no more, no more with me! 130
We two together no more.
The aria sinking;
All else continuing–the stars shining,
The winds blowing–the notes of the bird continuous echoing,
With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning,
On the sands of Paumanok’s shore, gray and rustling;
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of
the sea almost touching;
The boy extatic–with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the
The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously
The aria’s meaning, the ears, the Soul, swiftly depositing, 140
The strange tears down the cheeks coursing,
The colloquy there–the trio–each uttering,
The undertone–the savage old mother, incessantly crying,
To the boy’s Soul’s questions sullenly timing–some drown’d secret
To the outsetting bard of love.
Demon or bird! (said the boy’s soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it mostly to me?
For I, that was a child, my tongue’s use sleeping,
Now I have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am for–I awake, 150
And already a thousand singers–a thousand songs, clearer, louder and
more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me,
Never to die.
O you singer, solitary, singing by yourself–projecting me;
O solitary me, listening–nevermore shall I cease perpetuating you;
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what
there, in the night,
By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous’d–the fire, the sweet hell within, 160
The unknown want, the destiny of me.
O give me the clew! (it lurks in the night here somewhere;)
O if I am to have so much, let me have more!
O a word! O what is my destination? (I fear it is henceforth chaos;)
O how joys, dreads, convolutions, human shapes, and all shapes,
spring as from graves around me!
O phantoms! you cover all the land and all the sea!
O I cannot see in the dimness whether you smile or frown upon me;
O vapor, a look, a word! O well-beloved!
O you dear women’s and men’s phantoms!
A word then, (for I will conquer it,) 170
The word final, superior to all,
Subtle, sent up–what is it?–I listen;
Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea-waves?
Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands?
Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper’d me through the night, and very plainly before day-break,
Lisp’d to me the low and delicious word DEATH;
And again Death–ever Death, Death, Death,
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird, nor like my arous’d child’s
But edging near, as privately for me, rustling at my feet,
Creeping thence steadily up to my ears, and laving me softly all
Death, Death, Death, Death, Death.
Which I do not forget,
But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother,
That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok’s gray beach,
With the thousand responsive songs, at random,
My own songs, awaked from that hour;
And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
The word of the sweetest song, and all songs, 190
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet,
The sea whisper’d me.
– Walt Whitman
Beside an ebbing northern sea
While stars awaken one by one,
We walk together, I and he.
He woos me with an easy grace
That proves him only half sincere;
A light smile flickers on his face.
To him love-making is an art,
And as a flutist plays a flute,
So does he play upon his heart
A music varied to his whim.
He has no use for love of mine,
He would not have me answer him.
To hide my eyes within the night
I watch the changeful lighthouse gleam
Alternately with red and white.
My laughter smites upon my ears,
So one who cries and wakes from sleep
Knows not it is himself he hears.
What if my voice should let him know
The mocking words were all a sham,
And lips that laugh could tremble so?
What if I lost the power to lie,
And he should only hear his name
In one low, broken cry?
– Sara Teasdale
I started early, took my dog,
And visited the sea;
The mermaids in the basement
Came out to look at me.
And frigates in the upper floor
Extended hempen hands,
Presuming me to be a mouse
Aground, upon the sands.
But no man moved me till the tide
Went past my simple shoe,
And past my apron and my belt,
And past my bodice too,
And made as he would eat me up
As wholly as a dew
Upon a dandelion’s sleeve –
And then I started too.
And he – he followed close behind;
I felt his silver heel
Upon my ankle, – then my shoes
Would overflow with pearl.
Until we met the solid town,
No man he seemed to know;
And bowing with a mighty look
At me, the sea withdrew.
– Emily Dickinson
When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.
My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up,
Till it could come no more.
– Robert Louis Stevenson