Mary Jane Jewsbury Poems >>
The Oceanides III

THE BURDEN OF THE SEA.

Isaiah, XXIII.


THE sea hath spoken! Hear, O Earth!
  Where everlasting hills arise;
And all the host of heaven, stand forth;
  Together with the crystal skies;-
And thou-world's curse and blessing-MAN,
  Creating, desolating all
That mind may gather in its span-
  Stand forth, and bear a mightier thrall!


"I am thy prophet-puny world,
  'Tis God himself that speaks by me!
By me, his wrath is oftenest hurled;
  Hear, then, the vision of the sea:
Ye talk of kingdoms and of kings,
  Of fleets to triumph o'er me, born,
Know-that my weeds are mightier things,
  And laugh you in my depths to scorn.


"Famed cities with their harbours strong:
  Where now is Tyre? and Zidon where?
I made their power, and I have rung
  Their knell, upon the mountains bare:
The merchant and the mariner,
  In purple clothed, and sage with skill,
Looked on me as their Servitor-
  They found I had a master's will.


"Old Ninus never dared my frown;
  Nor Belus, gorgeous power and bold;
Wise Egypt dared-and, overthrown,
  Her hosts lie gathered in my fold.
As ocean, or as inland sea,
  By golden Ind or Grecian isle,
I mock at man-the same to me
  The royal fleet, the pirate vile.


"I bear them to their port of rest-
  How loud their vaunts of lordly pride!
Like foam I dash them from my breast-
  How cruel then my waters wide!
Yet am I one, or calm or heaving,
  The changing, yet the changeless sea;
And victor, vanquished-joyous, grieving-
  But one, is mortal man to me.


"The billows that engulph a fleet
  And desolate a thousand homes,
The sea-bird skims with careless feet;
  The nautilus securely roams;
I know not little, know not great-
  Earth hath for me nor friend not foe:
To me God never gave a mate;
  The hollow of his hand I know.


"I work his will-a spirit bland,
  A gentle minister of good;-
Or scatter death from land to land,
  And make a burial place my flood.
Of myriad navies, myriad hosts,
  I have the wrecks beneath my waves;-
Call ye them trophies?-idle boasts!
  They match the coral of my caves.


"Vaunt on, proud creatures, formed of clay,
  Subdue, and build, and desolate;
And grave in brass from day to day
  Your strength, your glory, and your state:
March through your lands from east to west,
  And be like Lucifer's your will;
But I am God's-and on my breast
  Veil that high look-be meek-be still."