At Ebb-Tide

MY spirit’s at its ebb,—
With tangling silvern web
The moon is drawing me,
Is drawing me a-sea.
The tide seeks out the deep
And leaves the shores to sleep,
To sleep and dream once more,
Quit of the surf’s long roar,
Nor caring what has been
What is to be, nor e’en
What is; like lotus-men
Tired of the wave, and then,
Propt in their dreamful beds
With poppies at their heads,
Tired of the memories
Of all things else than ease;
It seeks the ocean’s heart,
Out where the waters part,
Going in pulsing flood
To bear the new brine-blood,
The channel’s empty cup
With ichor to fill up, —
Out where they meet again
When mist and snow and rain
From watering the earth
Have come, from staying dearth,
From making deserts bloom,
From turning lathe and loom,
Nor void returning thence
To Him who sent them hence.
All day with busy hand
I’ve shifted silt and sand,
I’ve beaten ’gainst the rocks,
Carried the ships to docks,
Or ferried others forth
To East and South and North;
Or else I’ve sought surcease,
List’ning my hour of peace
The brooklet’s cadences,
The marshes’ silences.
But lifted, as on wings,
I seek again the springs,
The fountains of new life,
Far from the rocks of strife,
Far from the ’plaining beach,
Far from the shallows’ speech, —
I seek the deep profound,
With only sky around
And only stars above,
And His o’er-brooding love.
’T is ebb-tide where to-day
I fought in noisy fray;
The vagrant sands are still;
The rocks have their own will;
The battle’s left no trace,
Save scars upon their face;
Only the pools have kept,
Each in its tiny sept,
Some portion of the wave
That but this morn did lave
A thousand shores, and hide
Them, naked, with its tide.
’T is ebb-tide there and neap,
But here the waves are steep,
Heaped as an ocean hill
With new desire and will,
Waiting but heaven’s call
To hail them back to fall
Again upon the coasts,
Where they shall fling their boasts,
And strive with ancient stone
Till all the caverns moan,
Happier here to wait,
To lie and meditate,
Than o’er all coasts to roam,
Than dash myself to foam;
And happier the sands
Untroubled of my hands,
The rocks free of my fret,
The silent shoals — and yet,
And yet the shores were dead,
Save they were daily fed
By what these ravens bring
To them with tireless wing.
So let me be of those
Who make the rocks their foes,
Striking with fearless fist
Tho’ eyes be filled with mist;
Who stir the sands of time
Each day to some new rhyme
Till they shall slowly raise
New temples to the praise
Of sun and moon and Him
Who set them in yon rim,
And all the land shall hear
Their singing, and have cheer;
For life — for life were death,
If it had not the breath
Of struggle in its throat,
Fearless of wall or moat;
And life — and life is life
Only if there be strife.
So fling me back, I ask,
I’ll take again the task,
Rend ever and be rent,
Spend ever and be spent,
That He who sets the lights
To rule the days and nights
May have His high behest
Done of my doing’s best, —
E’en as the tides have done
The will of moon and sun.