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Poem by Thomas Campbell
Lines on the View from St. Leonard’s
HAIL to thy face and odors, glorious Sea! ’T were thanklessness in me to bless thee not, Great, beauteous Being! in whose breath and smile My heart beats calmer, and my very mind Inhales salubrious thoughts. How welcomer Thy murmurs than the murmurs of the world! Though like the world thou fluctuatest, thy din To me is peace, thy restlessness repose. Even gladly I exchange yon spring-green lanes With all the darling field-flowers in their prime, And gardens haunted by the nightingale’s Long trills and gushing ecstasies of song, For these wild headlands, and the sea-mews clang. With thee beneath my windows, pleasant Sea, I long not to o’erlook earth’s fairest glades And green savannahs,—earth has not a plain So boundless or so beautiful as thine; The eagle’s vision cannot take it in; The lightning’s wing, too weak to sweep its space, Sinks half-way o’er it like a wearied bird; It is the mirror of the stars, where all Their hosts within the concave firmament, Gay marching to the music of the spheres, Can see themselves at once. Nor on the stage Of rural landscape are there lights and shades Of more harmonious dance and play than thine. How vividly this moment brightens forth, Between gray parallel and leaden breadths, A belt of hues that stripes thee many a league, Flushed like the rainbow, or the ringdove’s neck, And giving to the glancing sea-bird’s wing The semblance of a meteor. Mighty Sea! Chameleon-like thou changest, but there ’s love In all thy change, and constant sympathy With yonder Sky,—thy mistress; from her brow Thou tak’st thy moods and wear’st her colors on Thy faithful bosom; morning’s milky white, Noon’s sapphire, or the saffron glow of eve; And all thy balmier hours, fair Element, Have, such divine complexion, crispéd smiles, Luxuriant heavings, and sweet whisperings, That little is the wonder Love’s own Queen From thee of old was fabled to have sprung,— Creation’s common! which no human power Can parcel or enclose; the lordliest floods And cataracts that the tiny hands of man Can tame, conduct, or bound are drops of dew To thee, that couldst subdue the earth itself, And brook’st commandment from the heavens alone For marshalling thy waves. Yet, potent Sea! How placidly thy moist lips speak even now Along yon sparkling shingles. Who can be So fanciless as to feel no gratitude That power and grandeur can be so serene, Soothing the home-bound navy’s peaceful way, And rocking even the fisher’s little bark As gently as a mother rocks her child? The inhabitants of other worlds behold Our orb more lucid for thy spacious share On earth’s rotundity; and is he not A blind worm in the dust, great Deep, the man Who sees not, or who seeing has no joy In thy magnificence? What though thou art Unconscious and material, thou canst reach The inmost immaterial mind’s recess, And with thy tints and motion stir its chords To music, like the light on Memnon’s lyre! The Spirit of the Universe in thee Is visible; thou hast in thee the life,— The eternal, graceful, and majestic life Of nature, and the natural human heart Is therefore bound to thee with holy love. Earth has her gorgeous towns; the earth-circling sea Has spires and mansions more amusive still,— Men’s volant homes that measure liquid space On wheel or wing. The chariot of the land With pained and panting steeds and clouds of dust Has no sight-gladdening motion like these fair Careerers with the foam beneath their bows, Whose streaming ensigns charm the waves by day, Whose carols and whose watch-bells cheer the night, Moored as they cast the shadows of their masts In long array, or hither flit and yond Mysteriously with slow and crossing lights, Like spirits on the darkness of the deep. There is a magnet-like attraction in These waters to the imaginative power That links the viewless with the visible, And pictures things unseen. To realms beyond Yon highway of the world my fancy flies, When by her tall and triple mast we know Some noble voyager that has to woo The trade-winds and to stem the ecliptic surge. The coral groves,—the shores of conch and pearl Where she will cast her anchor and reflect Her cabin-window lights on warmer waves, And under planets brighter than our own; The nights of palmy isles, that she will see Lit boundless by the fire-fly,—all the smells Of tropic fruits that will regale her,—all The pomp of nature, and the inspiriting Varieties of life she has to greet, Come swarming o’er the meditative mind. True, to the dream of fancy Ocean has His darker tints; but where ’s the element That checkers not its usefulness to man With casual terror? Scathes not Earth sometimes Her children with Tartarean fires, or shakes Their shrieking cities, and, with one last clang Of bells for their own ruin, strews them flat As riddled ashes,—silent as the grave? Walks not contagion on the air itself? I should old Ocean’s saturnalian days And roaring nights of revelry and sport With wreck and human woe be loath to sing; For they are few, and all their ills weigh light Against his sacred usefulness, that bids Our pensile globe revolve in purer air. Here morn and eve with blushing thanks receive Their freshening dews, gay fluttering breezes cool Their wings to fan the brow of fevered climes, And here the spring dips down her emerald urn For showers to glad the earth. Old Ocean was, Infinity of ages ere we breathed Existence, and he will be beautiful When all the living world that sees him now Shall roll unconscious dust around the sun. Quelling from age to age the vital throb In human hearts, death shall not subjugate The pulse that swells in his stupendous breast, Or interdict his minstrelsy to sound In thundering concert with the quiring winds; But long as man to parent nature owns Instinctive homage, and in times beyond The power of thought to reach, bard after bard Shall sing thy glory, BEATIFIC SEA.
Thomas Campbell's other poems:
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