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As the cloud at its wing's edge whitens
As the waves of the numberless waters
That the wind cannot number who guides
In the valley he named of decision
And gentler the wind from the dreary
From slopes that the tide-stream hath sapped; And sweeter than all that we call so
The seal of their slumber shall be Till the graves that embosom them also Be sapped of the sea.
For the heart of the waters is cruel,
And their waves are as fire is to fuel
Though the sun's eye flash to the sea's
Live light of delight and of laughter, And her lips breathe back to the breeze
The kiss that the wind's lips waft her From the sun that subsides, and sees
No gleam of the storm's dawn after.
And the wastes of the wild sea-marches
Where the borderers are matched in their mightBleak fens that the sun's weight parches, Dense waves that reject his lightChange under the change-coloured arches Of changeless morning and night.
The waves are as ranks enrolled
Too close for the storm to sever: The fens lie naked and cold,
But their heart fails utterly never: The lists are set from of old,
And the warfare endureth for ever.
Miles, and miles, and miles of desolation!
Leagues on leagues on leagues without a change! Sign or token of some eldest nation
Here would make the strange land not so strange. Time-forgotten, yea since time's creation,
Seem these borders where the sea-birds range.
Slowly, gladly, full of peace and wonder
Grows his heart who journeys here alone. Earth and all its thoughts of earth sink under Deep as deep in water sinks a stone. Hardly knows it if the rollers thunder,
Hardly whence the lonely wind is blown.
Tall the plumage of the rush-flower tosses,
Sharp and soft in many a curve and line Gleam and glow the sea-coloured marsh-mosses, Salt and splendid from the circling brine. Streak on streak of glimmering seashine crosses All the land sea-saturate as with wine.
Far, and far between, in divers orders,
Clear grey steeples cleave the low grey sky; Fast and firm as time-unshaken warders,
Hearts made sure by faith, by hope made high. These alone in all the wild sea-borders
Fear no blast of days and nights that die.
All the land is like as one man's face is,
Pale and troubled still with change of cares. Doubt and death pervade her clouded spaces:
Strength and length of life and peace are theirs; Theirs alone amid these weary places,
Seeing not how the wild world frets and fares.
Firm and fast where all is cloud that changes
Cloud-clogged sunlight, cloud by sunlight thinned, Stern and sweet, above the sand-hill ranges
Watch the towers and tombs of men that sinned Once, now calm as earth whose only change is
Wind, and light, and wind, and cloud, and wind.
Out and in and out the sharp straits wander,
In and out and in the wild way strives, Starred and paved and lined with flowers that squander Gold as golden as the gold of hives, Salt and moist and multiform: but yonder, See, what sign of life or death survives?
Seen then only when the songs of olden
Harps were young whose echoes yet endure, Hymned of Homer when his years were golden, Known of only when the world was pure, Here is Hades, manifest, beholden,
Surely, surely here, if aught be sure!
Where the border-line was crossed, that, sundering
None may doubt but here might end his quest.
Here the wise wave-wandering steadfast-hearted
Saw the semblance risen and hard at hand,
Statue? nay, nor tissued image woven
Love wherethrough the loving heart was cloven,
Love that lives and stands up re-created
Then when life has ebbed and anguish fled;
Here, where never came alive another,
Came her son across the sundering tide
Parted, though by narrowest of divisions,
Clasp he might not, only might implore, Sundered yet by bitterest of derisions,
Son, and mother from the son she boreHere? But all dispeopled here of visions
Lies, forlorn of shadows even, the shore.
All too sweet such men's Hellenic speech is,
IN THE WATER.
[A Midsummer Holiday etc. 1884.]
THE sea is awake, and the sound of the song of the joy of her waking is rolled
From afar to the star that recedes, from anear to the wastes of the wild wide shore.