The Bath

OFF, fetters of the falser life, —
Weeds that conceal the statue’s form !
This silent world with truth is rife,
This wooing air is warm.
Now fall the thin disguises, planned
For men too weak to walk unblamed :
Naked beside the sea I stand,—
Naked, and not ashamed.
Where yonder dancing billows dip,
Far-off, to ocean’s misty verge,
Ploughs Morning, like a full-sailed ship,
The Orient’s cloudy surge.
With spray of scarlet fire before
The ruffled gold that round her dies,
She sails above the sleeping shore,
Across the waking skies.
The dewy beach beneath her glows ;
A pencilled beam, the light-house burns :
Full-breathed, the fragrant sea-wind blows, —
Life to the world returns !
I stand, a spirit newly born,
White-limbed and pure, and strong, and fair,—
The first-begotten son of Morn,
The nursling of the air !
There, in a heap, the masks of Earth,
The cares, the sins, the griefs, are thrown
Complete, as, through diviner birth,
I walk the sands alone.
With downy hands the winds caress,
With frothy lips the amorous sea,
As welcoming the nakedness
Of vanished gods, in me.
Along the ridged and sloping sand,
Where headlands clasp the crescent cove,
A shining spirit of the land,
A snowy shape, I move :
Or, plunged in hollow-rolling brine,
In emerald cradles rocked and swung,
The sceptre of the sea is mine,
And mine his endless song.
For Earth with primal dew is wet,
Her long-lost child to rebaptize :
Her fresh, immortal Edens yet
Their Adam recognize.
Her ancient freedom is his fee ;
Her ancient beauty is his dower :
She bares her ample breasts, that he
May suck the milk of power.
Press on, ye hounds of life, that lurk
So close, to seize your harried prey !
Ye fiends of Custom, Gold, and Work,
1 hear your distant bay !
And like the Arab, when he bears
To the insulted camel’s path
His garment, which the camel tears,
And straight forgets Ins wrath ;
So, yonder badges of your sway,
Life’s paltry busks, to you I give :
Fall on, and in your blindness say,
We hold the fugitive !
But leave to me this brief escape
To simple manhood, pure and free,—
A child of God, in God’s own shape,
Between the land and sea !