WHAT is it to the fair New England shore
The dancing, sparkling, singing wavelets bring,
vexed with the winter’s woe and wrath no more,
And laughing in the radiant face of spring?
Oh many a crimson leaf and shell of gold
Tossed in a mist of silver-falling spray,
Rich, curious shapes of beauty manifold
Fringe the long, shimmering beach with colors gay.
And lightly cast to land with smile and song,
With graceful flowing forms and brilliant tints,
Something lies dark the scattered wrack among,
And to the morning’s joy a sorrow hints:
A bottle, with dull surface crusted o’er
With barnacle and shell and battered weed;
Passive it lies upon the shining shore,
Waiting for pitying eyes its woe to read.
Well has it kept a secret dark and drear!
Broken at last by human hands, behold
Its time-stained record: to the listening ear
Steals life’s last, bitter sigh of pain untold.
A few faint words, the ship’s name and the date,—
The Arctic Sea! " Last night the captain died;
Alone I perish.” Ah, how long to wait
Ere men should hear this anguished voice that cried!
Death, the all-merciful, twelve years ago
With welcome touch released this wretched soul;
His message of despair tossed to and fro
Twelve years, slow drifting from the frozen Pole.
The spinning planet turned from sun to shade,
From shade to sun, while o’er its spaces vast
Of desolate sea the silent message strayed
In storm or calm, and here it speaks at last.
Nor is the clear May sun less bright, the day —
Divinely fair! — less beautiful because
This shadow has crept down the trackless way
And reached our feet, and here, at last, must pause.
Poor fellow-man! The pity thou didst crave
Springs keen and warm; ’t is thine indeed to-day!
But what avails it? Lonely is thy grave
In that fierce silence, vast and cold and gray.
Yet in the midst of nature’s glad appeal
To know her sweet, to recognize her fair,
Though my whole soul responds, I still must feel
Thy pain, must hear the voice of thy despair.
Celia Thaxter.