A Dead Sea-Gull

LACK-LUSTRE eye, and idle wing,
And smirchèd breast that skims no more,
White as the foam itself, the wave--
Hast thou not even a grave
Upon the dreary shore,
Forlorn, forsaken thing?

Thou whom the deep seas could not drown,
Nor all the elements affright,
Flashing like thought across the main,
Mocking the hurricane,
Screaming with shrill delight
When the great ship went down.

Thee not thy beauty saved, nor mirth,
Nor daring, nor thy humble lot,
One among thousands--in quick haste
Fate clutched thee as she passed;
Dead--how, it matters not:
Corrupting, earth to earth.

And not a league from where it lies
Lie bodies once as free from stain,
And hearts as gay as this sea-bird's,
Whom all the preachers' words
Will ne'er make white again,
Or from the dead to rise.

Rot, pretty bird, in harmless clay:--
We sing too much poetic woes;
Let us be doing while we can:
Blessed the Christian man
Who on life's shore seeks those
Dying of soul decay.

At The Linn-Side

O LIVING, living water,
So busy and so bright,
Aye flashing in the morning beams,
And sounding through the night;
O golden-shining water--
Would God that I might be
A vocal message from His mouth
Into the world, like thee!

O merry, merry water,
Which nothing e'er affrays;
And as it pours from rock to rock
Nothing e'er stops or stays;
But past cool heathery hollows
And gloomy pools it flows;
Past crags that fain would shut it in
Leaps through--and on it goes.

O fresh'ning, sparkling water,
O voice that's never still,
Though winter lays her dead-white hand
On brae and glen and hill;
Though no leaf's left to flutter
In woods all mute and hoar,
Yet thou, O river, night and day
Thou runnest evermore.

No foul thing can pollute thee;
Thy swiftness casts aside
All ill, like a good heart and true,
However sorely tried.
O living, living water,
So fresh and bright and free--
God lead us through this changeful world
Forever pure, like thee!

A Dream Of Death

WHERE shall we sail to-day?'--Thus said, methought,
A voice that only could be heard in dreams:
And on we glided without mast or oar,
A wondrous boat upon a wondrous sea.

Sudden, the shore curved inward to a bay,
Broad, calm, with gorgeous sea-weeds waving slow
Beneath the water, like rich thoughts that stir
In the mysterious deep of poets' hearts.

So still, so fair, so rosy in the dawn
Lay that bright bay: yet something seemed to breath,
Or in the air, or from the whispering waves,
Or from that voice, as near as one's own soul,

'There was a wreck last night.' A wreck? then where
The ship, the crew?--The all-entombing sea
On which is writ nor name nor chronicle
Laid itself o'er them with smooth crystal smile.

'Yet was the wreck last night.'. And gazing down
Deep down below the surface, we were ware
Of ghastly faces with their open eyes
Uplooking to the dawn they could not see.

One moved with moving sea-weeds: one lay prone,
The tinted fishes gliding o'er his breast;
One, caught by floating hair, rocked quietly
Upon his reedy cradle, like a child.

'The wreck has been'--said the melodious voice,
'Yet all is peace. The dead, that, while we slept,
Struggled for life, now sleep and fear no storms:
O'er them let us not weep when heaven smiles.'

So we sailed on above the diamond sands,
Bright sea-flowers, and white faces stony calm,
Till the waves bore us to the open main,
And the great sun arose upon the world.

Will Sail Tomorrow

THE good ship lies in the crowded dock,
Fair as a statue, firm as a rock:
Her tall masts piercing the still blue air,
Her funnel glittering white and bare,
Whence the long soft line of vapory smoke
Betwixt sky and sea like a vision broke,
Or slowly o'er the horizon curled
Like a lost hope fled to the other world:
She sails to-morrow,--
Sails to-morrow.

Out steps the captain, busy and grave,
With his sailor's footfall, quick and brave,
His hundred thoughts and his thousand cares,
And his steady eye that all things dares:
Though a little smile o'er the kind face dawns
On the loving brute that leaps and fawns,
And a little shadow comes and goes,
As if heart and fancy fled--where, who knows:
He sails to-morrow:
Sails to-morrow.

To-morrow the serried line of ships
Will quick close after her as she slips
Into the unknown deep once more:
To-morrow, to-morrow, some on shore
With straining eyes shall desperate yearn--
'This is not parting? return--return!'
Peace, wild-wrung hands! hush, sobbing breath!
Love keepeth its own through life and death;
Though she sails to-morrow--
Sails to-morrow.

Sail, stately ship; down Southampton water
Gliding fair as old Nereus' daughter:
Christian ship that for burthen bears
Christians, speeded by Christian prayers;
All kinds of angels follow her track!
Pitiful God, bring the good ship back!
All the souls in her forever keep
Thine, living or dying, awake or asleep:
Then sail to-morrow!
Ship, sail to-morrow!

O SOLITARY shining sea
That ripples in the sun,
O gray and melancholy sea,
O'er which the shadows run;

O many-voiced and angry sea,
Breaking with moan and strain,--
I, like a humble, chastened child,
Come back to thee again;

And build child-castles and dig moats
Upon the quiet sands,
And twist the cliff-convolvulus
Once more, round idle hands;

And look across that ocean line,
As o'er life's summer sea,
Where many a hope went sailing once,
Full set, with canvas free.

Strange, strange to think how some of them
Their silver sails have furled,
And some have whitely glided down
Into the under world;

And some, dismasted, tossed and torn,
Put back in port once more,
Thankful to ride, with freight still safe,
At anchor near the shore.

Stranger it is to lie at ease
As now, with thoughts that fly
More light and wandering than sea-birds
Between the waves and sky:

To play child's play with shells and weeds,
And view the ocean grand
Sunk to one wave that may submerge
A baby-house of sand;

And not once look, or look by chance,
With old dreams quite supprest,
Across that mystic wild sea-world
Of infinite unrest.

O ever solitary sea,
Of which we all have found
Somewhat to dream or say,--the type
Of things without a bound--

Love, long as life, and strong as death;
Faith, humble as sublime;
Eternity, whose large depths hold
The wrecks of this small Time;--

Unchanging, everlasting sea!
To spirits soothed and calm
Thy restless moan of other years
Becomes an endless psalm.

By The Alma River

WILLIE, fold your little hands;
Let it drop, that 'soldier' toy:
Look where father's picture stands,--
Father, who here kissed his boy
Not two months since,--father kind,
Who this night may--Never mind
Mother's sob, my Willie dear,
Call aloud that He may hear
Who is God of battles, say,
'O, keep father safe this day
By the Alma river.'

Ask no more, child. Never heed
Either Russ, or Frank, or Turk,
Right of nations or of creed,
Chance-poised victory's bloody work:
Any flag i' the wind may roll
On thy heights, Sebastopol;
Willie, all to you and me
Is that spot, where'er it be,
Where he stands--no other word!
Stands--God sure the child's prayer heard--
By the Alma river.

Willie, listen to the bells
Ringing through the town to-day.
That's for victory. Ah, no knells
For the many swept away,--
Hundreds--thousands! Let us weep,
We who need not,--just to keep
Reason steady in my brain
Till the morning comes again,
Till the third dread morning tell
Who they were that fought and fell
By the Alma river.

Come, we'll lay us down, my child,
Poor the bed is, poor and hard;
Yet thy father, far exiled,
Sleeps upon the open sward,
Dreaming of us two at home:
Or beneath the starry dome
Digs out trenches in the dark,
Where he buries--Willie, mark--
Where he buries those who died
Fighting bravely at his side
By the Alma river.

Willie, Willie, go to sleep,
God will keep us, O my boy;
He will make the dull hours creep
Faster, and send news of joy,

When I need not shrink to meet
Those dread placards in the street,
Which for weeks will ghastly stare
In some eyes--Child, sy thy prayer
Once again; a different one:
Say, 'O God, Thy will be done
By the Alma river.'