A Sea Dream

A poem

We saw the slow tides go and come,
   The curving surf-lines lightly drawn,
The gray rocks touched with tender bloom
   Beneath the fresh-blown rose of dawn.

We saw in richer sunsets lost
   The sombre pomp of showery noons;
And signaled spectral sails that crossed
   The weird, low light of sea-born moons.

On stormy eves from cliffs and head
   We saw the white spray tossed and spurned;
While, over all, in gold and red,
   Its face of fire the light-house turned.

The rail-car brought its daily crowds;
   Half curious, half indifferent,
Like passing sails or floating clouds,
   We saw them as they came and went.

But, one calm morning, as we lay
   And watched the mirage-lifted wall
Of coast, across the dreamy bay,
   And heard afar the curlew call,

And nearer voices, wild or tame,
   Of airy flock and childish throng,
Up from the water’s edge there came
   Faint snatches of familiar song.

Careless we heard the singer’s choice
   Of old and common airs; at last
The tender pathos of his voice
   In one low chanson held us fast.

A song that mingled joy and pain,
   And memories old and sadly sweet:
While timing to its minor strain,
   The waves in lapsing cadence beat.

* * *

The waves are glad in breeze and sun,
   The rocks are fringed with foam;
I walk once more a haunted shore,
   A stranger, yet at home, —
   A land of dreams I roam!

Is this the wind, the soft sea-wind
   That stirred thy locks of brown?
Are these the rocks whose mosses knew
   The trail of thy light gown
   Where boy and girl sat down?

I see the gray fort’s broken wall,
   The boats that rock below;
And, out at sea, the passing sails
   We saw so long ago,
   Rose-red in morning’s glow.

The freshness of the early time
   On every breeze is blown;
As glad the sea, as blue the sky, —
   The change is ours alone;
   The saddest is my own!

A stranger now, a whole world-worn man
   Is he who bears my name;
But thou, methinks, whose mortal life
   Immortal youth became,
   Art evermore the same.

Thou art not here, thou art not there,
   Thy place I cannot see;
I only know that where thou art
   The blessed angels be,
   And heaven is glad for thee.

Forgive me, if the evil years
   Have left on me their sign;
Wash out, O soul so beautiful,
   The many stains of mine
   In tears of love divine!

Oh turn to me that dearest face
   Of all thy sea-born town,
The wedded roses of thy lips,
   Thy loose hair rippling down
   In waves of golden brown!

Look forth once more through space and time,
   And let thy sweet shade fall
In tenderest grace of soul and form
   On memory’s frescoed wall,
   A shadow, and yet all!

Draw near, more near, forever dear!
   Where’er I rest or roam,
Or in the crowded city streets
   Or by the blown sea-foam,
   The thought of thee is home!

* * *

At breakfast hour the singer read
   The city news, with comment wise,
Like one who felt the pulse of trade
   Beneath his finger fall and rise.

His look, his air, his curt speech told
   The man of action, not of books,
To whom the corners made in gold
   And stocks were more than sea-side nooks.

Of life beneath the life confessed
   His song had hinted unawares;
Of flowers in traffic’s ledger’s pressed,
   Of human hearts in Bulls and Bears.

But eyes in vain were turned to watch
   That face so hard and shrewd and strong;
And ears in vain grew sharp to catch
   The meaning of that morning song.

In vain some sweet-voiced querist sought
   To sound him, leaving as she came;
Her baited album only caught
   A common, unromantic name.

No word betrayed the mystery fine
   That trembled on the singer’s tongue;
He came and went, and left no sign
   Behind him save the song he sung.