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SONG FOR ALL SEAS, ALL SHIPS
TO-DAY a rude brief recitative,
Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or shipsignal,
Of unnamed heroes in the ships-of waves spreading and
spreading far as the eye can reach,
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing,
Fitful, like a surge.
Of sea-captains young or old, and the mates, and of all intrepid sailors,
Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise nor death dismay,
Picked sparingly without noise by thee, old ocean, chosen by thee,
Thou sea that pickest and cullest the race in time, and unitest nations,
Suckled by thee, old husky nurse, embodying thee,
Indomitable, untamed as thee.
(Ever the heroes on water or on land, by ones or twos appearing,
Ever the stock preserved and never lost, though rare, enough
for seed preserved.)
Flaunt out, O sea, your separate flags of nations!
But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death,
Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates, And all that went down doing their duty,
Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains young or old,
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o'er all brave sailors,
I WILL go back to the great sweet mother,-
I will go down to her, I and none other,
Close with her, kiss her, and mix her with me;
O fair green-girdled mother of mine,
Sea, that art clothed with the sun and the rain,
Thy large embraces are keen like pain.
Wrought without hand in a world without stain.
I shall sleep, and move with the moving ships,
I shall rise with thy rising, with thee subside;
With splendid summer and perfume and pride.
This woven raiment of nights and days,
Were it once cast off and unwound from me, Naked and glad would I walk in thy ways,
Alive and aware of thy waves and thee; Clear of the whole world, hidden at home, Clothed with the green, and crowned with the foam, A pulse of the life of thy straits and bays,
A vein in the heart of the streams of the Sea.
Fair mother, fed with the lives of men,
Thou art subtle and cruel of heart, men say; Thou hast taken, and shalt not render again; Thou art full of thy dead, and cold as they. But death is the worst that comes of thee; Thou art fed with our dead, O Mother, O Sea, But when hast thou fed on our hearts? or when Having given us love, hast thou taken away?
O tender-hearted, O perfect lover,
Thy lips are bitter, and sweet thine heart.
But thou, thou art sure, thou art older than earth;
From "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"
THERE is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
What I can ne'er express, yet can not all conceal.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin, his control Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain A shadow of man's ravage, save his own, When, for a moment, like a drop of rain, He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.
His steps are not upon thy paths, thy fields
And dashest him again to earth:—there let him lay.
The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee;— Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they? Thy waters washed them power while they were free, And many a tyrant since; their shores obey The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay Has dried up realms to deserts:-not so thou; Unchangeable save to thy wild waves' play, Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow; Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now.
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
Calm or convulsed,-in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Dark-heaving;-boundless, endless, and sublime,—
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime The monsters of the deep are made; each zone Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
-as I do here.
George Gordon Byron [1788-1824]
ON THE SEA
Ir keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell Gluts twice ten thousand caverns, till the spell Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound. Often 'tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from whence it sometime fell, When last the winds of heaven were unbound. Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vexed and tired, Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude, Or fed too much with cloying melody,—
Sit ye near some old cavern's mouth, and brood Until ye start, as if the sea-nymphs quired!
John Keats [1795-1821]