OF THE WATERS

The Sea and the Shore

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
And this is ocean’s poem.

Mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under many a star at night,
All the wonders of the sea are here:
The sibilant near sea with vistas far and foam,
The boundless blue on every side expanding;
The unquiet ocean, restless ocean of the entire world, covering three-fourths of the world,
Heaving sea of stretched ground-swells, breathing broad and convulsive breaths,
Mysterious oceans where the streams empty,
Infinite oceans where the rivers empty.

On floats the unbounded sea in distant blue, careering through its channels,
Waves spreading and spreading far as the eye can reach,
Undulating waves with shining curving motions,
Liquid, uneven, emulous waves, tender and pensive,
Larger and smaller waves in the spread of the ocean yearnfully flowing.

Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
Sooth’d to ease and sheeny sun and sleep,
And again another behind embracing and lapping—
The scallop-edged waves, the ladled cups, and the dancing motion,
The milk-white crests curling over, the frolicsome crests and glistening,

Ample, smiling face, dash’d with the sparkling dimples of the sun,
In every crest some undulating light or shade—
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg’d waves!

Not safe and peaceful only, waves rous’d and ominous too,
Brooding scowl and murk—unloos’d hurricanes,
Wild, wild the storm, and the sea high running,
Unsubduedness, caprices, wilfulness;
Out of the depths the storm’s abysmic waves, who knows whence?

Strong waves chaotically surging, the wild unrest, the snowy, curling caps,
Large imperious waves, raging over the vast, arousable to fury and to death.
The hoarse monotonous surging of the husky-nois’d sea,
Ever those muffled distant lion roars,
And serpent hiss, and savage peals of laughter,
Shouts of demoniac laughter fitfully piercing and pealing.

The panorama of the sea . . . . but the sea itself?
What is it in us, arous’d by those indirections and directions?
If you would understand me go to the water-shore,
The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of waves a key.

The attractions, fascinations there are in sea and shore!
For miles, as far as the eye can reach, nothing but flat gray sand and the sea rolling in,
That spread of waves and gray-white beach, salt, monotonous, senseless—such an entire absence of art, books, talk, elegance—so indescribably comforting—grim, yet so delicate-looking, so spiritual,
How one dwells on their simplicity, even vacuity!

Salty shore and breeze and brine,
The lines underfoot, those slender windrows,
Chaff, straw, weeds, and the sea-gluten, left by the tide,
The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and land of the globe,
That suggesting, dividing line, contact, junction, the solid marrying the liquid,
Fusion of ocean and land, where it is neither ground nor sea—
Striking emotional, impalpable depths, subtler than all the poems, paintings, music, I have ever read, seen, heard.

By the marge of restless oceans, the many-moving sea-tides.
The sparkling and hurrying tides continually rush or recede,
Hurried and glittering tides, whirling in and out with eddies and foam,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
A myriad myriad waves hastening,
Troops of white-maned racers racing to the goal,
Lifting up their necks, tending in ceaseless flow.
Proudly the flood comes in, shouting, foaming, advancing,
That inbound urge and urge of waves, the mad pushes of waves upon the land,
Overtures sent to the solid out of the liquid, seeking the shores forever,
O madly the sea pushes upon the land,
With love, with love.

The waters roll slowly continually up the shores,
Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant,
The mystic surf-beat of the sea,
The measur’d sea-surf beating on the sand—
A stretch of interminable white-brown sand, hard and smooth and broad,
The weird, white-gray beach—not without its tales of pathos—tales, too, of grandest heroes and heroisms,
Shore where ever gayly dash the coming, going, hurrying sea waves,
The ocean perpetually, grandly, rolling in upon it, with slow-measured sweep, with rustle and hiss and boom and foam.

Oceans musical, with whistling winds and music of the waves,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The slapping waves, the rocking in the sand,
And rhythmic rasping of sands and waves,
And many a thump as of low bass drums.

The old mother sways to and fro singing her husky song,
With husky-haughty lips, O sea!
The first and last confession of the globe,
Outsurging, muttering from thy soul’s abysm,
Sounding, appealing to the sky’s deaf ear.
Some voice, in huge monotonous rage, of freedom-lover pent,
Some vast heart, like a planet’s, chain’d and chafing in those breakers,
Some vast soul like a planet stopt, arrested, tied.

What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim thy waters?
Thy lonely state—something thou ever seek’st and seek’st, yet never gains’t,
Surely cosmic some right withheld,
Some mighty freedom pent, denied,
Naught but the greatest struggles, wrongs, defeats, could make thee greatest.
The tale of cosmic elemental passion,
Thou tellest to a kindred soul,
A phantom in the night thy confidant for once.

The husky whispering waves bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,
Over the waves many a half-caught voice sent up from the eddies,
Many a muffled confession—many a sob and whisper’d word, as of speakers far or hid.
The sea to the whistle of death pours its sweeping and unript waves,
The wind piping the pipe of death under the black clouds,
And there, singular, on ocean waves, downward, buoyant, swift,
Over the waters, an occupied coffin floating,
To the ocean borne out, the hidden and measureless ocean, with room for all.

NEXT: The Poet and the Sea AND SHORE