LIGHTLY she lifts the large, pure, luminous shell,
Poises it in her strong and shapely hand.
“ Listen,” she says, “ it has a tale to tell,
Spoken in language you may understand.”
Smiling, she holds it at my dreaming ear :
The old, delicious murmur of the sea
Steals like enchantment through me, and I hear
Voices like echoes of eternity.
She stirs it softly. Lo, another speech !
In one of its dim chambers, shut from sight,
Is sealed the water that has kissed the beach
Where the far Indian Ocean leaps in light.
Those laughing ripples, hidden evermore
In utter darkness, plaintively repeat
Their lapsing on the glowing tropic shore
In melancholy whispers low and sweet.
O prisoned wave that may not see the sun !
O voice that never may be comforted !
You cannot break the web that fate has spun ;
Out of your world are light and gladness fled.
The red dawn nevermore shall tremble far
Across the leagues of radiant brine to you ;
You shall not sing to greet the evening star,
Nor dance exulting under heaven’s clear blue.
Inexorably woven is the weft
That shrouds from you all joy but memory :
Only this tender, low lament is left
Of all the sumptuous splendor of the sea.
Celia Thaxter.