SALT sprays deluge it, wild waves buffet it, hurricanes rave ;
Summer and winter, the depths of the ocean girdle it round ;
In leaden dawns, in golden noon-tides, in silvery moonlight
Never it ceases to hear the old sea's mystical sound.
Surges vex it evermore
By gray cave and sounding shore,

Think of the numberless far-away centuries, long before man,
When the hot earth with monsters teemed, and with monsters the deep,
And the red sun loomed faint, and the moon was caught fast in the motionless air,
And the warm waves seethed through the haze in a secular sleep.
Rock was here and headland then,
Ere the little lives of men.

Over it long the mastodons crashed through the tropical forest,
And the great bats swooped overhead through the half-defined blue ;
Then they passed, and the hideous ape-man, speechless and half-erect,
Through weary ages of time tore and gibbered and slew.
Grayer skies and chiller air,
But the self-same rock was there.

Then the savage came and went, and Briton and Roman and Saxon,
Till our England grew rich and great, and her white sails covered the sea ;
Thus through all this long story of ours, civil progress and vanquished foeman,
From Crecy to Trafalgar, from the bondsman down to the free,
Still those dark rocks, and beneath
Keeps the sea its face of death.

So it shall be when the tide of our greatness has ebbed to the shallows ;
So when there floats not a ship on this storm-tossed westerly main,
Hard by, the minster crumbles, the city has shrunk to a village ;
Thus shall we shrink one day, and our forests be pathless again ;
And the headland stern shall stand,
Guarding an undiscovered land.

Vex it, O changeless ocean ; rave round it, tempests unceasing ;
Sink it, great earthquakes, deep in the depths of the fathomless sea ;
Bum them, fierce fires of the centre, burn rock and ocean together,
Till the red globe flare throughout space, through the ages to be.
Cease, make an end, dull world, begone
How shall I cease while you roll on ?

Time, oh, horrible ! Space, oh, terrible ! Infinite Void !
Dreadful abysses of Being ! blighting a finite brain ;
How shall the creatures of thought subsist, when the thinker ceases ?
Begone, dull figments, be done ! not alone shall you dare to remain.
Without me you yourselves must fall ;
I hold the measure of you all.

More verses by Sir Lewis Morris