OH, is it moss or weather-stain
I see upon the narrow ledge
Where North Head lifts above the main,
Or roses wind-sown ’neath that ledge
Of iron-gray, or some bright waif
Lost from a tropic-laden deck
And wafted on the current safe,
Or piece of some sad, beauteous wreck?
Oh, list! wave-murmurs come to me
And guess it: neither stain nor moss,
Nor lodge of roses by the sea,
Nor tropic-laden vessel’s loss,
Nor stuff torn out of beauty’s sail,
The waters whisper; and their palms
Clap softly to the passing gale,
To summon all the scents and balms
Of ocean to her ladyhood,
As in that setting of old rock
She glows; sea-faring fancies brood;
To her the tilting cloudlets flock
And take her tender dream for freight;
The sea-flags dip in a salute
At her first visit to their state;
The ocean is her page and lute.
She sits, rare piece of Nature’s joy
In some day made when color blent
With charm the happiest, to employ
Her passion, and a low wind lent
Its temper to the level voice,
And ocean plashed a stain of green
Into her eye to guide its choice
To claim a kinship with his scene.
So sits she, on the planet’s coast,
And for a sentry bids to stand
The keen horizon at its post,
To bar the curses of the land,
And challenge sorrow, and repulse
With sun-tipped halberds all affray,
That she may watch the crimson dulse
Sway languid as her fancies sway,
And watch white billows of the air
And crested billows of the sea,
As to her mood they all repair
In simple bliss with her to be.
She is the soul within a cloud,
Anon the sparkle on the deep;
No scene was e’er before so proud,
So happy, such a tryst to keep.
Could I too keep it! Or should I
With some note jar on her content,
Displease the ocean and the sky,
The flattering of the waves prevent,
And give the cloud a sullen turn?
Could I too keep it, all my ill,
All tricks that mar, desires that burn,
Would die; my discord would be still.
Oh, I do keep it! In her palm
As in a cup there brimming lie
The tender vastness and the calm,
The ripple’s whisper, soft and shy,
Her hush, her dream; she lifts it up,
Puts it to my far lip to drain:
Her ladyhood is in the cup —
It thrills, it drenches, heart and brain.
  1. J. W.