To Avis Keene

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

On receiving a basket of sea-mosses.


Thanks for thy gift
Of ocean flowers,
Born where the golden drift
Of the slant sunshine falls
Down the green, tremulous walls
Of water, to the cool, still coral bowers,
Where, under rainbows of perpetual showers,
God's gardens of the deep
His patient angels keep;
Gladdening the dim, strange solitude
With fairest forms and hues, and thus
Forever teaching us
The lesson which the many-colored skies,
The flowers, and leaves, and painted butterflies,
The deer's branched antlers, the gay bird that flings
The tropic sunshine from its golden wings,
The brightness of the human countenance,
Its play of smiles, the magic of a glance,
Forevermore repeat,
In varied tones and sweet,
That beauty, in and of itself, is good.

O kind and generous friend, o'er whom
The sunset hues of Time are cast,
Painting, upon the overpast
And scattered clouds of noonday sorrow
The promise of a fairer morrow,
An earnest of the better life to come;
The binding of the spirit broken,
The warning to the erring spoken,
The comfort of the sad,
The eye to see, the hand to cull
Of common things the beautiful,
The absent heart made glad
By simple gift or graceful token
Of love it needs as daily food,
All own one Source, and all are good
Hence, tracking sunny cove and reach,
Where spent waves glimmer up the beach,
And toss their gifts of weed and shell
From foamy curve and combing swell,
No unbefitting task was thine
To weave these flowers so soft and fair
In unison with His design
Who loveth beauty everywhere;
And makes in every zone and clime,
In ocean and in upper air,
All things beautiful in their time.

For not alone in tones of awe and power
He speaks to Inan;
The cloudy horror of the thunder-shower
His rainbows span;
And where the caravan
Winds o'er the desert, leaving, as in air
The crane-flock leaves, no trace of passage there,
He gives the weary eye
The palm-leaf shadow for the hot noon hours,
And on its branches dry
Calls out the acacia's flowers;
And where the dark shaft pierces down
Beneath the mountain roots,
Seen by the miner's lamp alone,
The star-like crystal shoots;
So, where, the winds and waves below,
The coral-branched gardens grow,
His climbing weeds and mosses show,
Like foliage, on each stony bough,
Of varied hues more strangely gay
Than forest leaves in autumn's day;
Thus evermore,
On sky, and wave, and shore,
An all-pervading beauty seems to say
God's love and power are one; and they,
Who, like the thunder of a sultry day,
Smite to restore,
And they, who, like the gentle wind, uplift
The petals of the dew-wet flowers, and drift
Their perfume on the air,
Alike may serve Him, each, with their own gift,
Making their lives a prayer

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