The North Shore

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I.

September On Cape Ann

The partridge-berry flecks with flame the way
That leads to ferny hollows where the bee
Drones on the aster. Far away the sea
Points its deep sapphire with a gleam of grey.
Here from this height where, clustered sweet, the bay
Clumps a green couch, the haw and barberry
Beading her hair, sad Summer, seemingly,
Has fallen asleep, unmindful of the day.
The chipmunk barks upon the old stone wall;
And in the shadows, like a shadow, stirs
The woodchuck where the boneset's blossom creams.
Was that a phoebe with its pensive call?
A sighing wind that shook the drowsy firs?
Or only Summer waking from her dreams?

II.

In An Annisquam Garden

Old phantoms haunt it of the long ago;
Old ghosts of old-time lovers and of dreams:
Within the quiet sunlight there, meseems,
I see them walking where those lilies blow.
The hardy phlox sways to some garment's flow;
The salvia there with sudden scarlet streams,
Caught from some ribbon of some throat that gleams,
Petunia-fair, in flounce and furbelow.
I seem to hear their whispers in each wind
That wanders mid the flowers. There they stand!
Among the shadows of that apple-tree!
They are not dead, whom still it keeps in mind,
This garden, planted by some lovely hand
That keeps it fragrant with its memory.

III.

The Elements

I saw the spirit of the pines that spoke
With spirits of the ocean and the storm:
Against the tumult rose its tattered form,
Wild rain and darkness round it like a cloak.
Fearful it stood, limbed like some twisted oak,
Gesticulating with one giant arm,
Raised as in protest of the night's alarm,
Defiant still of some impending stroke.
Below it, awful in its majesty,
The spirit of the deep, with rushing locks,
Raved: and above it, lightning-clad and shod,
Thundered the tempest. Thus they stood, the three;
Terror around them; while, upon the rocks,
Destruction danced, mocking at man and God.

IV.

Night And Storm At Gloucester

I heard the wind last night that cried and wept
Like some old skipper's ghost outside my door;
And on the roof the rain that tramped and tore
Like feet of seamen on a deck storm-swept.
Against the pane the Night with shudderings crept,
And crouched there wailing; moaning ever more
Its tale of terror; of the wrath on shore,
The rage at sea, bidding all wake who slept.
And then I heard a voice as old as Time;
The calling of the mother of the world,
Ocean, who thundered on her granite crags,
Foaming with fury, meditating crime.
And then, far off, wild minute guns; and, hurled
Through roaring surf, the rush of sails in rags.

V.

The Voice Of Ocean

A cry went through the darkness; and the moon,
Hurrying through storm, gazed with a ghastly face,
Then cloaked herself in scud: the merman race
Of surges ceased; and then th' ├ćolian croon
Of the wild siren, Wind, within the shrouds
Sunk to a sigh. The ocean in that place
Seemed listening; haunted, for a moment's space,
By something dread that cried against the clouds.
Mystery and night; and with them fog and rain:
And then that cry again as if the deep
Uttered its loneliness in one dark word:
Her horror of herself; her Titan pain;
Her monsters; and the dead that she must keep,
Has kept, alone, for centuries, unheard.

VI.

Waves

I saw the daughters of the ocean dance
With wind and tide, and heard them on the rocks:
White hands they waved me, tossing sunlit locks,
Green as the light an emerald holds in trance.
Their music bound me as with necromance
Of mermaid beauty, that for ever mocks,
And lured me as destruction lures wild flocks
Of light-led gulls and storm-tossed cormorants.
Nearer my feet they crept: I felt their lips:
Their hands of foam that caught at me, to press,
As once they pressed Leander: and, straightway,
I saw the monster-ending of their hips;
The cruelty hid in their soft caress;
The siren-passion ever more to slay.

VII.

A Bit Of Coast

One tree, storm-twisted, like an evil hag,
The sea-wind in its hair, beside a path
Waves frantic arms, as if in wild-witch wrath
At all the world. Gigantic, grey as slag,
Great boulders shoulder through the hills, or crag
The coast with danger, monster-like, that lifts
Huge granite, round which wheel the gulls and swifts,
And at whose base the rotting sea-weeds drag.
Inward the hills are wooded; valley-cleft;
Tangled with berries; vistaed dark with pines;
At whose far end, as 'twere within a frame,
Some trail of water that the ocean left
Gleams like a painting where one white sail shines,
Lit with the sunset's poppy-coloured flame.

VIII.

Autumn At Annisquam

The bitter-sweet and red-haw in her hands,
And in her hair pale berries of the bay,
She haunts the coves and every Cape Ann way,
The Indian, Autumn, wandered from her bands.
Beside the sea, upon a rock, she stands,
And looks across the foam, and straight the grey
Takes on a sunset tone, and all the day
Murmurs with music of forgotten lands.
Now in the woods, knee-deep among the ferns,
She walks and smiles and listens to the pines,
The sweetheart pines, that kiss and kiss again,
Whispering their love: and now she frowns and turns
And in the west the fog in ragged lines
Rears the wild wigwams of the tribes of rain.

IX.

Storm Sabbat

Against the pane the darkness, wet and cold,
Pressed a wild face and raised a ragged arm
Of cloud, clothed on with thunder and alarm
And terrible with elemental gold.
Above the fisher's hut, beyond the wold,
The wind, a Salem witch, rushed shrieking harm,
And swept her mad broom over every farm
To devil-revels in some forest old.
Hell and its-hags, it seemed, held court again
On every rock, trailing a tattered gown
Of surf, and whirling, screaming, to the sea
Elf-locks, fantastic, of dishevelled rain;
While in their midst death hobbled up and down
Monstrous and black, with diabolic glee.

X.

The Aurora

Night and the sea, and heaven overhead
Cloudless and vast, as 'twere of hollowed spar,
Wherein the facets gleamed of many a star,
And the half-moon a crystal radiance shed.
Then suddenly, with burning banners spread,
In pale celestial armour, as for war,
Into the heaven, flaming from afar,
The Northern Lights their phalanxed splendours led.
Night, for the moment, seemed to catch her breath,
And earth gazed, silent with astonishment,
As spear on spear the auroral armies came;
As when, triumphant over hell and death,
The victor angels thronged God's firmament
With sword on sword and burning oriflamme.

XI.

Dogtown

Far as the eye can see the land is grey,
And desolation sits among the stones
Looking on ruin who, from rocks like bones,
Stares with a dead face at the dying day.
Mounds, where the barberry and bay hold sway,
Show where homes rose once; where the village crones
Gossiped, and man, with many sighs and groans,
Laboured and loved and went its daily way.
Only the crow now, like a hag returned,
Croaks on the common that its hoarse voice mocks.
Meseems that here the sorrow of the earth
Has lost herself, and, with the past concerned,
Sits with the ghosts of dreams that haunt these rocks,
And old despairs to which man's soul gave birth.

XII.

An Abandoned Quarry

The barberry burns, the rose-hip crimsons warm,
And haw and sumach hedge the hill with fire,
Down which the road winds, worn of hoof and tire,
Only the blueberry-picker plods now from the farm.
Here once the quarry-driver, brown of arm,
Wielded the whip when, deep in mud and mire,
The axle strained, and earned his daily hire,
Labouring bareheaded in both sun and storm.
Wild-cherry now and blackberry and bay
Usurp the place: the wild-rose, undisturbed,
Riots, where once the workman earned his wage,
Whose old hands rest now, like this granite grey,
These rocks, whose stubborn will whilom he curbed,
Hard as the toil that was his heritage.

XIII.

A Pool Among The Rocks

I know a pool, whose crystalline repose
Sleeps under walls of granite, whence the pine
Leans looking at its image, line for line
Repeated with the sumach and wild-rose
That redden on the rocks; where, at day's close,
The sunset dreams, and lights incarnadine
Dark waters and the place seems brimmed with wine,
A giant cup that splendour overflows.
Night, in her livery of stars and moon,
Stoops to its mirror, gazing steadily;
And, saddened by her beauty, drops one tear,
A falling star; while round it sighs the rune
Of winds, conspirators that sweep from sea,
Whispering of things that fill the heart with fear.

XIV.

High On A Hill

There is a place among the Cape Ann hills
That looks from fir-dark summits on the sea,
Whose surging sapphire changes constantly
Beneath deep heavens, Morning windowsills,
With golden calm, or sunset citadels
With storm, whose towers the winds' confederacy
And bandit thunder hold in rebel fee,
Swooping upon the ilsher's sail that swells.
A place, where Sorrow ceases to complain,
And life's old Cares put all their burdens by,
And Weariness forgets itself in rest.
Would that all life were like it; might obtain
Its pure repose, its outlook, strong and high,
That sees, beyond, far Islands of the Blest.

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