A poem by George Parsons Lathrop

Far out at sea there has been a storm,
And still, as they roll their liquid acres,
High-heaped the billows lower and glisten.
The air is laden, moist, and warm
With the dying tempest's breath;
And, as I walk the lonely strand
With sea-weed strewn, my forehead fanned
By wet salt-winds, I watch the breakers,
Furious sporting, tossed and tumbling,
Shatter here with a dreadful rumbling -
Watch, and muse, and vainly listen
To the inarticulate mumbling
Of the hoary-headed deep;
For who may tell me what it saith,
Muttering, moaning as in sleep?

Slowly and heavily
Comes in the sea,
With memories of storm o'erfreighted,
With heaving heart and breath abated,
Pregnant with some mysterious, endless sorrow,
And seamed with many a gaping, sighing furrow.

Slowly and heavily
Grows the green water-mound;
But drawing ever nigher,
Towering ever higher,
Swollen with an inward rage
Naught but ruin can assuage,
Swift, now, without sound,
Creeps stealthily
Up to the shore -
Creeps, creeps and undulates;
As one dissimulates
Till, swayed by hateful frenzy,
Through passion grown immense, he
Bursts forth hostilely;
And rising, a smooth billow -
Its swelling, sunlit dome
Thinned to a tumid ledge
With keen, curved edge
Like the scornful curl
Of lips that snarl -
O'ertops itself and breaks
Into a raving foam;
So springs upon the shore
With a hungry roar;
Its first fierce anger slakes
On the stony shallow;
And runs up on the land,
Licking the smooth, hard sand,
Relentless, cold, yet wroth;
And dies in savage froth.

Then with its backward swirl
The sands and the stones, how they whirl!
O, fiercely doth it draw
Them to its chasm'd maw,
And against it in vain
They linger and strain;
And as they slip away
Into the seething gray
Fill all the thunderous air
With the horror of their despair,
And their wild terror wreak
In one hoarse, wailing shriek.

But scarce is this done,
When another one
Falls like the bolt from a bellowing gun,
And sucks away the shore
As that did before:
And another shall smother it o'er.

Then there's a lull - a half-hush;
And forward the little waves rush,
Toppling and hurrying,
Each other worrying,
And in their haste
Run to waste.

Yet again is heard the trample
Of the surges high and ample:
Their dreadful meeting -
The wild and sudden breaking -
The dinting, and battering, and beating,
And swift forsaking.

And ever they burst and boom,
A numberless host;
Like heralds of doom
To the trembling coast;
And ever the tangled spray
Is tossed from the fierce affray,
And, as with spectral arms
That taunt and beckon and mock,
And scatter vague alarms,
Clasps and unclasps the rock;
Listlessly over it wanders;
Moodily, madly maunders,
And hissingly falls
From the glistening walls.

So all day along the shore
Shout the breakers, green and hoar,
Weaving out their weird tune;
Till at night the full moon
Weds the dark with that ring
Of gold that you see her fling
On the misty air.
Then homeward slow returning
To slumbers deep I fare,
Filled with an infinite yearning,
With thoughts that rise and fall
To the sound of the sea's hollow call,
Breathed now from white-lit waves that reach
Cold fingers o'er the damp, dark beach,
To scatter a spray on my dreams;
Till the slow and measured rote
Brings a drowsy ease
To my spirit, and seems
To set it soothingly afloat
On broad and buoyant seas
Of endless rest, lulled by the dirge
Of the melancholy surge.

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