Strange Sea! why is it that you never rest?
And tell me why you never go to sleep?
Thou art like one so sad and sin-oppressed --
(And the waves are the tears you weep) --
And thou didst never sin -- what ails the sinless deep?
To-night I hear you crying on the beach,
Like a weary child on its mother's breast --
A cry with an infinite and lonesome reach
Of unutterably deep unrest;
And thou didst never sin -- why art thou so distressed?
But, ah, sad Sea! the mother's breast is warm,
Where crieth the lone and the wearied child;
And soft the arms that shield her own from harm;
And her look is unutterably mild --
But to-night, O Sea! thy cry is wild, so wild!
What ails thee, Sea? The midnight stars are bright --
How safe they lean on heaven's sinless breast!
O Sea! is the beach too hard, tho' e'er so white,
To give thy utter weariness a rest?
(And to-night the winds are a-coming from the West).
* * * * *
Where the shadows moan o'er the day's life done,
And the darkness is waiting for the light,
Ah, me! how the shadows ever seek and shun
The sacred, radiant faces of the bright --
(And the stars are the vestal virgins of the night);
Or am I dreaming? Do I see and hear
Without me what I feel within?
Is there an inner eye and an inner ear
Thro' which the sounds and silences float in
In reflex of the spirit's calm or troublous din?
I know not. After all, what do I know?
Save only this -- and that is mystery --
Like the sea, my spirit hath its ebb and flow
In unison, and the tides of the sea
Ever reflect the ceaseless tides of thoughts in me.
Waves, are ye priests in surplices of gray,
Fringed by the fingers of the breeze with white?
Is the beach your altar where ye come to pray,
With the sea's ritual, every day and night?
And the suns and stars your only altar light?
Great Sea! the very rhythm of my song
(And the winds are a-coming from the West),
Like thy waves, moveth uncertainly along;
And my thoughts, like thy tide with a snow-white crest,
Flow and ebb, ebb and flow with thy own unrest.