A poem by Kate Seymour Maclean

Through many-winding valleys far inland,
A maze among the convoluted hills,
Of rocks up-piled, and pines on either hand,
And meadows ribbanded with silver rills,
Faint, mingled-up, composite sweetnesses
Of scented grass and clover, and the blue
Wild-violet hid in muffling moss and fern,
Keen and diverse another breath cleaves through,
Familiar as the taste of tears to me,
As on my lips, insistent, I discern
The salt and bitter kisses of the sea.

The tide sets up the river; mimic fleetnesses
Of little wavelets, fretted by the shells
And shingle of the beach, circle and eddy round,
And smooth themselves perpetually: there dwells
A spirit of peace in their low murmuring noise
Subsiding into quiet, as if life were such
A struggle with inexorable bound,
Brief, bright, despairing, never over-lept,
Dying in such wise, with a sighing voice
Breathed out, and after silence absolute.

Faith, eager hope, toil, tears, despair,--so much
The common lot,--together over-swept
Into the pitiless unreturning sea,
The vast immitigable sea.

I walk beside the river, and am mute
Under the burden o fits mystery.
The cricket pipes among the meadow grass
His shrill small trumpet, of long summer nights
Sole minstrel: and the lonely heron makes
Voyaging slow toward her reedy nest
A moving shadow among sunset lights
Upon the river's darkening wave, which breaks.
Into a thousand circling shapes that pass
Into the one black shadow of the shore.

O tranquil spirit of the pervading test
Brooding along the valleys with shut wings
That fold all sentient and inanimate things
In their entrenched calm for evermore,
Save only the unquiet human soul;
Hear'st thou the far-off sound of waves that roll
In sighing cadence, like a soul in pain,
Hopeless of heaven or peace, beating in vain
The shores implacable for some replies
To the dumb anguish of eternal doubt,
(As I, for the sad thoughts that rise in me):
Feel'st thou upon thy heavy-lidded eyes
The salt and bitter kisses of the sea;
And dost thou draw, like me, a shuddering breath
Among dusk shadows brooding silently?

Ah me, thou hear'st me not: I walk alone.
The doubt within me, and the dark without,
In my sad ears, the waves' recurrent moan,
Sounds like the surges of the sea of death,
Beating for evermore the shores of time
With muttered prophecies, which sorrow saith
Over and over, like a set slow chime
Of funeral bells, tolling remote, forlorn,
Dirge-like the burden--"Man was made to mourn."

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