We left behind the painted buoy
That tosses at the harbor-mouth;
And madly danced our hearts with joy,
As fast we fleeted to the South:
How fresh was every sight and sound
On open main or winding shore!
We knew the merry world was round,
And we might sail for evermore.
Warm broke the breeze against the brow,
Dry sang the tackle, sang the sail:
The Lady’s-head upon the prow
Caught the shrill salt, and sheer’d the gale.
The broad seas swell’d to meet the keel,
And swept behind: so quick the run,
We felt the good ship shake and reel,
We seem’d to sail into the Sun!
How oft we saw the Sun retire,
And burn the threshold of the night,
Fall from his Ocean-lane of fire,
And sleep beneath his pillar’d light!
How oft the purple-skirted robe
Of twilight slowly downward drawn,
As thro’ the slumber of the globe
Again we dash’d into the dawn!
New stars all night above the brim
Of waters lighten’d into view;
They climb’d as quickly, for the rim
Changed every moment as we flew.
Far ran the naked moon across
The houseless ocean’s heaving field,
Or flying shone, the silver boss
Of her own halo’s dusky shield;
The peaky islet shifted shapes,
High towns on hills were dimly seen,
We past long lines of Northern capes
And dewy Northern meadows green.
We came to warmer waves, and deep
Across the boundless east we drove,
Where those long swells of breaker sweep
The nutmeg rocks and isles clove.
By peaks that flamed, or, all in shade,
Gloom’d the low coast and quivering brine
With ashy rains, that spreading made
Fantastic plume or sable pine;
By sands and steaming flats, and floods
Of mighty mouth, we scudded fast,
And hills and scarlet-mingled woods
Glow’d for a moment as we past.
O hundred shores of happy climes,
How swiftly stream’d ye by the bark!
At times the whole sea burn’d, at times
With wakes of fire we tore the dark;
At times a carven craft would shoot
From havens hid in fairy bowers,
With naked limbs and flowers and fruit,
But we nor paused for fruit nor flowers.
For one fair Vision ever fled
Down the waste waters day and night,
And still we follow’d where she led,
In hope to gain upon her flight.
Her face was evermore unseen,
And fixt upon the far sea-line;
But each man murmur’d, ‘O my Queen,
I follow till I make thee mine.’
And now we lost her, now she gleam’d
Like Fancy made of golden air,
Now nearer to the prow she seem’d
Like Virtue firm, like Knowledge fair,
Now high on waves that idly burst
Like Heavenly Hope she crown’d the sea
And now, the bloodless point reversed,
She bore the blade of Liberty.
And only one among us—him
We please not—he was seldom pleased:
He saw not far: his eyes were dim:
But ours he swore were all diseased.
‘A ship of fools’ he shriek’d in spite,
‘A ship of fools’ he sneer’d and wept.
And overboard one stormy night
He cast his body, and on we swept.
And never sail of ours was furl’d,
Nor anchor dropt at eve or morn;
We loved the glories of the world,
But laws of nature were our scorn;
For blasts would rise and rave and cease,
But whence were those that drove the sail
Across the whirlwind’s heart of peace,
And to and thro’ the counter-gale?
Again to colder climes we came,
For still we follow’d where she led:
Now mate is blind and captain lame,
And half the crew are sick or dead.
But blind or lame or sick or sound
We follow that which flies before:
We know the merry world is round,
And we may sail for evermore.