OF THE WATERS

The Sea and the Shore

This is ocean’s poem,
Mysterious oceans where the streams empty,
Infinite oceans where the rivers empty,
Unquiet ocean, restless ocean of the entire world,
covering three-fourths of the world—
To me the sea is a continual miracle.

On floats the unbounded sea in distant blue,
The boundless blue on every side expanding,
Heaving sea of stretched ground-swells, breathing broad and convulsive breaths, careering through its channels,
The sibilant near sea with vistas far and foam.
Mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under many a star at night,
All the wonders of the sea are here.

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.
The scallop-edged waves, the ladled cups, and the dancing motion,
The milk-white crests curling over, the frolicsome crests and glistening,

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

Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
Sooth’d to ease and sheeny sun and sleep,
And again another behind embracing and lapping—
Soothe! soothe! soothe!

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

Strong tumultuous 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 go to the water-shore,
The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of waves a key.

By the marge of restless oceans, the tides continually rush or recede,
Sparkling and hurrying, glittering tides with ceaseless swell,
The many-moving sea-tides, whirling in and out with eddies and foam
.
On floats the wind over the breast of the sea setting in toward land,
The great steady wind, floating so buoyant, tossing the waves.

The waters roll slowly continually up the weird, white-gray beach,
A stretch of interminable sand, hard and smooth and broad,
For miles, as far as the eye can reach, nothing but flat gray sand,
Not without its tales of pathos—tales, too, of grandest heroes and heroisms—
And the sea rolling in,
The ocean perpetually, grandly, rolling in with slow-measured sweep.

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!

Shore where ever gayly dash the coming, going, hurrying sea waves,
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.

Oceans musical—
Whistling winds and music of the waves,
The mystic surf-beat of the sea,
The measur’d sea-surf beating on the sand,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The slapping waves, the rocking in the sand,
Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant,
With rustle and hiss and boom and foam,
And rhythmic rasping of sands and waves,
With the surge for bass and accompaniment low and hoarse,
And many a thump as of low bass drums.

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 first and last confession of the globe.

With husky-haughty lips, the old mother sways to and fro singing her husky song;
O sea! Muttering from thy soul’s abysm,
Sounding, appealing to the sky’s deaf ear,
Something thou ever seek’st and seek’st, yet never gain’st,
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—
Surely some cosmic right withheld,
Some mighty freedom pent, denied.

Great as thou art above the rest,
Naught but the greatest struggles, wrongs, defeats could make thee greatest—
Thy lonely state, thy many tears outsurging,
A lack from all eternity in thy content.

Out in the breakers tirelessly tossing, a myriad myriad waves hastening,
With milk-white foam on the waters, the white arms,
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,
Overtures sent to the solid out of the liquid, seeking the shores forever,
The mad pushes of waves upon the land—
O madly the sea pushes upon the land,
With love, with love—
Contact, junction, fusion of ocean and land,
Where it is neither ground nor sea,
The solid marrying the liquid.

NEXT: The Poet and the Sea AND SHORE