On Old Cape Ann

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I.

Annisquam

Old days, old ways, old homes beside the sea;
Old gardens with old-fashioned flowers aflame,
Poppy, petunia, and many a name
Of many a flower of fragrant pedigree.
Old hills that glow with blue- and barberry,
And rocks and pines that stand on guard, the same,
Immutable, as when the Pilgrim came,
And here laid firm foundations of the Free.
The sunlight makes the dim dunes hills of snow,
And every vessel's sail a twinkling wing
Glancing the violet ocean far away:
The world is full of color and of glow;
A mighty canvas whereon God doth fling
The flawless picture of a perfect day.

II.

"The Highlands, " Annisquam

Here, from the heights, among the rocks and pines,
The sea and shore seem some tremendous page
Of some vast book, great with our heritage,
Breathing the splendor of majestic lines.
Yonder the dunes speak silver; yonder shines
The ocean's sapphire word; there, gray with age,
The granite writes its lesson, strong and sage;
And there the surf its rhythmic passage signs.
The winds, that sweep the page, that interlude
Its majesty with music; and the tides,
That roll their thunder in, that period
Its mighty rhetoric, deep and dream-imbued,
Are what it seems to say, of what abides,
Of what's eternal and of what is God.

III.

Storm At Annisquam

The sun sinks scarlet as a barberry.
Far off at sea one vessel lifts a sail,
Hurrying to harbor from the coming gale,
That banks the west above a choppy sea.
The sun is gone; the fide is flowing free;
The bay is opaled with wild light; and pale
The lighthouse spears its flame now; through a veil
That falls about the sea mysteriously.
Out there she sits and mutters of her dead,
Old Ocean; of the stalwart and the strong,
Skipper and fisher whom her arms dragged down:
Before her now she sees their ghosts; o'erhead
As gray as rain, their wild wrecks sweep along,
And all night long lay siege to this old town.

IV.

From Cove To Cove

The road leads up a hill through many a brake,
Blueberry and barberry, bay and sassafras,
By an abandoned quarry, where, like glass,
A round pool lies; an isolated lake,
A mirror for what presences, that make
Their wildwood toilets here! The road is grass
Gray-scarred with stone: great bowlders, as we pass,
Slope burly shoulders towards us. Cedars shake
Wild balsam from their tresses; there and here
Clasping a glimpse of ocean and of shore
In arms of swaying green. Below, at last,
Beside the sea, with derrick and with pier,
By heaps of granite, noise of drill and bore,
A Cape Ann town, towering with many a mast.

V.

Pastures By The Sea

Here where the coves indent the shore and fall
And fill with ebb and flowing of the tides;
Whereon some barge rocks or some dory rides,
By which old orchards bloom, or, from the wall,
Pelt every lane with fruit; where gardens, tall
With roses, riot; swift my gladness glides
To that old pasture where the mushroom hides,
The chicory blooms and Peace sits mid them all.
Fenced in with rails and rocks, its emerald slopes.
Ribbed with huge granite, where the placid cows
Tinkle a browsing bell, roll to a height
Wherefrom the sea, bright as adventuring hopes,
Swept of white sails and plowed of foaming prows,
Leaps like a Nereid on the ravished sight.

VI.

The Dunes

Far as the eye can see, in domes and spires,
Buttress and curve, ruins of shifting sand,
In whose wild making wind and sea took hand,
The white dunes stretch. The wind, that never tires,
Striving for strange effects that he admires,
Changes their form from time to time; the land
Forever passive to his mad demand,
And to the sea's, who with the wind conspires.
Here, as on towers of desolate cities, bay
And wire-grass grow, wherein no insect cries,
Only a bird, the swallow of the sea,
That homes in sand. I hear it far away
Crying or is it some lost soul that flies,
Above the land, ailing unceasingly?

VII.

By The Summer Sea

Sunlight and shrill cicada and the low,
Slow, sleepy kissing of the sea and shore,
And rumor of the wind. The morning wore
A sullen face of fog that lifted slow,
Letting her eyes gleam through of grayest glow;
Wearing a look like that which once she wore
When, Gloucesterward from Dogtown there, they bore
Some old witchwife with many a gibe and blow.
But now the day has put off every care,
And sits at peace beside the smiling sea,
Dreaming bright dreams with lazy-lidded eyes:
One is a castle, precipiced in air,
And one a golden galleons can it be
'Tis but the cloudworld of the sunset skies?

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