Outward Bound

A poem by Susan Coolidge

A grievous day of wrathful winds,
Of low-hung clouds, which scud and fly,
And drop cold rains, then lift and show
A sullen realm of upper sky.

The sea is black as night; it roars
From lips afoam with cruel spray,
Like some fierce, many-throated pack
Of wolves, which scents and chases prey.

Crouched in my little wind-swept nook,
I hear the menacing voices call,
And shudder, as above the deck
Topples and swings the weltering wall.

It seems a vast and restless grave,
Insatiate, hungry, beckoning
With dreadful gesture of command
To every free and living thing.

"O Lord," I cry, "Thou makest life
And hope and all sweet things to be;
Rebuke this hovering, following Death,--
This horror never born of Thee."

A sudden gleam, the waves light up
With radiant momentary hues,--
Amber and shadowy pearl and gold,
Opal and green and unknown blues,--

And, rising on the tossing walls,
Within the foaming valleys swung,
Soft shapes of sea-birds, dimly seen,
Flutter and float and call their young,

A moment; then the lowering clouds
Settle anew above the main,
The colors die, the waves rise higher,
And night and terror rule again.

No more I see the small, dim shapes,
So unafraid of wind and wave,
Nestling beneath the tempest's roar,
Cradled in what I deemed a grave.

But all night long I lay and smiled
At thought of those soft folded wings,
And trusting, with the trustful birds,
In Him who cares for smallest things.

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