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Ocean Poems

Table of Contents

Poems About the Ocean

  1. The Sweep of Ocean by Amos Russel Wells
  2. Break, Break, Break by Alfred Tennyson
  3. Ocean Mightier Than the Land by Annette Wynne
  4. By the Sea by Emily Dickinson
  5. The Cup of Ocean by Anonymous
  6. The Sea by Emily Dickinson
  7. "The Sea Is His" by Anonymous
  8. The Streets in the Sea by Anonymous
  9. Grey Rocks, and Greyer Sea by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts
  10. Salt by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts
  11. Seaweed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  12. Wish—Wishin' by Amos Russel Wells
  13. Night by E.G.A. Holmes
  14. The Spouting Horn by Hannah Flagg Gould
  15. Apostrophe to the Ocean by George Gordon Byron
  16. The Voice of the Sea by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  17. A Sea-Change by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse
  18. La Mer by Oscar Wilde
  19. Sea Lyric by William Stanley Braithwaite
  20. Voice of the Sea by William Stanley Braithwaite
  21. The Storm at Sea by Lydia Sigourney
  22. By the Sea by Christina Rossetti

Ocean Sky

  1. Out of the Sunset's Red by William Stanley Braithwaite
  2. Moonrise at Sea by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  3. The moon is distant from the sea by Emily Dickinson
  4. The Moon and the Waves by Ruby Archer
  5. The Stars Above the Sea by Anonymous
  6. Starlight at Sea by Katharine Lee Bates
  7. To The Moon Rising Above The Waters by Eliza and Sarah Wolcott

Sea Creatures

  1. The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes
  2. The Nautilus and the Ammonite by Anonymous
  3. Barnacles by Sidney Lanier
  4. Don't You See? by Katherine Lee Bates
  5. The Mermaid's Song by Hannah Flagg Gould

Poems About the Ocean

  1. The Sweep of Ocean

    by Amos Russel Wells

    Imperially free,
    The bay slow-widens out into the sea,
    Subdues its lordly headlands, cramps its shore,
    Hushes its breakers to a silent gleam,
    And yields itself entire for evermore
    To ocean's incommunicable dream.

    Who follows? What far-winged flight of soul
    Spurns the near dancing wave,
    And set and brave
    Beats out and out beyond all tame control
    Into the age-long sweep.
    The dim and dread horizons of the deep?
    look not behind
    At waning cottage and the friendly wood,
    Things warm and bright and fondly understood,
    Hearts dearly good.
    Be desperately deaf, be sternly blind
    Fling yourself out into forgetfulness,
    And press, press, press
    Through the austere, untrodden wastes of air,
    Seeking what thing is there.
    Yours not to say
    What you shall meet on this mysterious way,
    Red lightnings crashing through demonic night,
    Delicate seas that laugh into the light,
    The gaping mouths of monsters waiting grim,
    Sweet islands wreathed and dim,
    Or only barren wastes of mocking spray
    Ever rebuffing whom they still invite.
    Nor dare you feel
    Here in this welter of the infinite
    That you are less than it.
    Though purpose falter and though spirit reel
    With vastness of the waters and the dread
    Of nothingness, and though your soul is dead,
    And all is dead above you and below
    And in the fog-filled void to which you go
    Still must you go invincible, serene,
    Still must you proudly know
    You are but traversing your own demesne.
    And must we seek forever through the air?
    Must we forever bear
    This awful weight of loneliness, nor turn
    Back to the homely bay for which we yearn,
    Back to the cottage comforts fondly fair?
    Yes, comrade, yes?
    Whoever takes this path,
    At peril of hot shame and branding wrath
    Must not turn back,
    But press, press, press
    Upon the vague, unending, glorious track,
    Whate'er the ocean hath.
    Who once has felt the sea-sweep, nevermore
    May dare to know the confines of the shore.

  2. Break, Break, Break

    Alfred Tennyson

    Break, break, break,
    On thy cold gray stones, O sea!
    And I would that my tongue could utter
    The thoughts that arise in me.

    Oh, well for the fisherman's boy,
    That he shouts with his sister at play!
    Oh, well for the sailor lad,
    That he sings in his boat on the bay!

    And the stately ships go on
    To their haven under the hill;
    But oh for the touch of a vanished hand,
    And the sound of a voice that is still!

    Break, break, break,
    At the foot of thy crags, O sea!
    But the tender grace of a day that is dead
    Will never come back to me.

  3. Ocean Mightier Than the Land

    by Annette Wynne

    Ocean, mightier than the land,
    Wilful, turbulent, and wild,
    Will you love a little child
    And kiss her hand?

    Ocean, when I play with you,
    The pretty waves are soft and blue,
    But sailors who have sailed away
    Tell you do not always play.

    Far off you toss the great big ships
    Just like tiny wooden chips;
    Tell me, for I want to know
    Why you act just so?

    Ocean mightier than the land,
    Wilful, boisterous and wild—
    Will you love a little child
    And kiss her hand?

  4. By the Sea

    by Emily Dickinson

    I started early, took my dog,
    And visited the sea;
    The mermaids in the basement
    Came out to look at me,

    And frigates in the upper floor
    Extended hempen hands,
    Presuming me to be a mouse
    Aground, upon the sands.

    But no man moved me till the tide
    Went past my simple shoe,
    And past my apron and my belt,
    And past my bodice too,

    And made as he would eat me up
    As wholly as a dew
    Upon a dandelion's sleeve —
    And then I started too.

    And he — he followed close behind;
    I felt his silver heel
    Upon my ankle, — then my shoes
    Would overflow with pearl.

    Until we met the solid town,
    No man he seemed to know;
    And bowing with a mighty look
    At me, the sea withdrew.

  5. The Cup of Ocean

    by Amos Russel Wells

    What does the cup of ocean hold?
    Glory of purple and glint of gold;
    Tenderest greens and heavenly blue,
    Shot with the sunlight through and through;
    Wayward ripples that idly roam.
    Tumbling breakers with gallant foam;
    Sands and pebbles that chase and slide;
    Mystic currents that softly glide;
    Mighty spell of the ages old,
    This does the cup of ocean hold.

    What does the cup of ocean hear
    To the lips of land folk everywhere?
    Danger's ominous, ghostly breath,
    Battered forms of an awful death;
    Howling tempests and bitter sleet,
    Crash of the sea steeds' terrible feet;
    Ships a-quiver with fearful shock,
    Anguish heaped on a savage rock;
    Loss and turmoil and fatal snare,
    This does the cup of ocean bear.

    Look ye well to the ocean's cup,
    Ye who gladly on beauty sup.
    Tarry long at the treacherous brink,
    Gaze within e'er ye bend and drink.

  6. The Sea

    by Emily Dickinson

    An everywhere of silver,
    With ropes of sand
    To keep it from effacing
    The track called land.

  7. "The Sea Is His"

    by Anonymous

    The sea is His; long leagues of shimmering flow,
    The wrinkled lanes wherein the vessels go,
    Coruscant islands gleaming softly fair,
    And all the moonlit sands that lovers know.

    Yes and the black doom shrieking in the air
    is also His; the rock's horrific snare,
    The savage foaming monster waves of woe,
    The hopeless hurled caverns of despair.

    The sea is His; then look beyond the sea
    To know the sea; beyond its agile glee,
    Beyond its tempests, look away to Him,
    The living fountain of its mystery.

    Perchance through all withdrawings far and dim,
    And past the dull horizon's outmost rim,
    Your eyes may glimpse the Sea beyond the sea.
    Your heart may hear the choiring seraphim!

  8. The Streets in the Sea

    by Anonymous

    Have you seen the streets in the sea?
    The streets with no houses to bound them,
    And only the wavelets around them
    Yet running as straight as can be,
    White in the blue,
    Parallel too,
    Stretching afar
    Over the bar,
    Out to the islands and far away
    Beyond the curve of the sheltering bay—
    Have you seen the streets in the sea?

    Who walks on these mystical streets?
    The breezes go racing along them,
    The dreams of maidenhood throng them,
    And fancy with fancy meets,
    Daintily gay,
    One with the day,
    Dancing along
    Swept by a song
    Out to a distant, shadowy shore,
    And they will come back to us nevermore
    Along the streets of the sea.

  9. Grey Rocks, and Greyer Sea

    by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts

    Grey rocks, and greyer sea,
    And surf along the shore —
    And in my heart a name
    My lips shall speak no more.

    The high and lonely hills
    Endure the darkening year —
    And in my heart endure
    A memory and a tear.

    Across the tide a sail
    That tosses, and is gone —
    And in my heart the kiss
    That longing dreams upon.

    Grey rocks, and greyer sea,
    And surf along the shore —
    And in my heart the face
    That I shall see no more.

  10. Salt

    by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts

    O breath of wind and sea,
    Bitter and clear,
    Now my faint soul springs free,
    Blown clean from fear!

    O hard sweet strife, O sting
    Of buffeting salt!
    Doubt and despair take wing,
    Failure, and fault.

    I dread not wrath or wrong,—
    Smile, and am free;
    Strong while the winds are strong,
    The rocks, the sea.

    Heart of my heart, tho' life
    Front us with storm,
    Love will outlast the strife,
    More pure, more warm.

  11. -->
  12. Seaweed

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    When descends on the Atlantic
    The gigantic
    Storm-wind of the equinox,
    Landward in his wrath he scourges
    The toiling surges,
    Laden with seaweed from the rocks:

    From Bermuda's reefs; from edges
    Of sunken ledges,
    In some far-off, bright Azore;
    From Bahama, and the dashing,
    Silver-flashing
    Surges of San Salvador;

    From the tumbling surf, that buries
    The Orkneyan skerries,
    Answering the hoarse Hebrides;
    And from wrecks of ships, and drifting
    Spars, uplifting
    On the desolate, rainy seas; —

    Ever drifting, drifting, drifting
    On the shifting
    Currents of the restless main;
    Till in sheltered coves, and reaches
    Of sandy beaches,
    All have found repose again.

    So when storms of wild emotion
    Strike the ocean
    Of the poet's soul, erelong
    From each cave and rocky fastness,
    In its vastness,
    Floats some fragment of a song:

    From the far-off isles enchanted,
    Heaven has planted
    With the golden fruit of Truth;
    From the flashing surf, whose vision
    Gleams Elysian
    In the tropic clime of Youth;

    From the strong Will, and the Endeavor
    That forever
    Wrestle with the tides of Fate;
    From the wreck of Hopes far-scattered,
    Tempest-shattered,
    Floating waste and desolate; —

    Ever drifting, drifting, drifting
    On the shifting
    Currents of the restless heart;
    Till at length in books recorded,
    They, like hoarded
    Household words, no more depart.

  13. Wish—Wishin'

    by Amos Russel Wells

    On a lazy summer day
    I kin hear the ocean say
    Sorter longin' to the beach,
    Wish—wish,
    In a dreamy-reamy speech,
    Wish—wish-wish!

    Wonder wot it's wishin' fer!
    Ain't a livin' emperer
    Got a patchin' to the gold—
    (Wish—wish)—
    That the sea is s'posed to hold.
    (Wish—wish—wish!)

    Treasure vessels by the score
    Lyin' on the ocean floor,
    Rubies, dimun's, gems, an sich—
    (Wish—wish)—
    Don't the ocean know it's rich?
    (Wish—wish—wish!)

    Wonder w'y it's reachin' out.
    Ain't no capital about,
    Ain't no plunder wuth a pin—
    (Wish—wish)—
    Fer its waves to gether in.
    (Wish—wish—wish!)

    Ho! I've got it! Look at those
    Summer girls in summer clo'es!
    Poor old ocean! 'f I were you—
    (Wish—wish)—
    I 'ud be a-wishin' too!
    (Wish—wish—wish!)

  14. Night

    by E. G. A. Holmes

    Night comes and stars their wonted vigils keep
    In soft unfathomable depths of sky:
    In mystic veil of shadowy darkness lie
    The infinite expanses of the deep,—
    Save where the silvery paths of moonlight sleep,
    And rise and sink for ever dreamily
    With the majestic heaving of the sea.
    Night comes, and tenfold gloom where dark and steep,
    Into black waters of a land-locked bay
    The cliffs descend: there never tempest raves
    To break the awful slumber; far below
    Glimmer the foamy fringes white as snow;
    And sounds of strangled thunder rise alway,
    And midnight moanings of imprisoned waves.

  15. The Spouting Horn

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    On the dark rock's steep
    I stood, where the deep
    By its view, like a mighty spell, bound me;
    While the white foam-wreath
    Was weaving beneath,
    And the breeze from the waters played round me;

    Then wave after wave,
    To a low, narrow cave,
    Came, as rest from a long journey seeking;
    But, "out! out! out!"
    Was the word, which the Spout
    To its guests seemed eternally speaking.

    And each billow seen
    Rolling up, soft and green,
    To the Horn, full of grace in its motion,
    Now wild, as with fright,
    Would return snowy white,
    And rush, roaring, back to the ocean.

    In vain did my eye,
    By its search, seek to spy
    The monarch of this gloomy dwelling,
    Who thus, by the force
    Of his voice, stern and hoarse,
    The deep in her might was repelling.

    What power could be there,
    Shut from light, heat and air,
    I asked, with the dumbness of wonder;
    But, "Out!" was the word,
    That alone could be heard,
    And in sounds like the roaring of thunder!

    O Time! Time! 't is thus,
    Thou art sporting with us;
    Our touch at thy shore proudly spurning.
    To eternity we,
    As the waves to the sea,
    Are broken and restless returning!

  16. Apostrophe to the Ocean

    by George Gordon Byron

    There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
    There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
    There is society where none intrudes,
    By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
    I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
    From these our interviews, in which I steal
    From all I may be, or have been before,
    To mingle with the Universe, and feel
    What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

    Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean—roll!
    Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
    Man marks the earth with ruin—his control
    Stops with the shore;—upon the watery plain
    The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
    A shadow of man's ravage, save his own,
    When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
    He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
    Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

    His steps are not upon thy paths,—thy fields
    Are not a spoil for him,—thou dost arise
    And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
    For earth's destruction thou dost all despise,
    Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
    And send'st him, shivering in thy playful spray
    And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
    His petty hope in some near port or bay,
    And dashest him again to earth:—there let him lay.

    The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
    Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,
    And monarchs tremble in their capitals.
    The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
    Their clay creator the vain title take
    Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;
    These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
    They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
    Alike the Armada's pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.

    Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee—
    Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
    Thy waters washed them power while they were free
    And many a tyrant since: their shores obey
    The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
    Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou,
    Unchangeable save to thy wild waves' play—
    Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow—
    Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

    Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
    Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
    Calm or convulsed—in breeze, or gale, or storm,
    Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
    Dark-heaving;—boundless, endless, and sublime—
    The image of Eternity—the throne
    Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
    The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
    Obeys thee: thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

    And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
    Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
    Borne like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
    I wantoned with thy breakers—they to me
    Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
    Made them a terror—'twas a pleasing fear,
    For I was as it were a child of thee,
    And trusted to thy billows far and near,
    And laid my hand upon thy mane—as I do here.

  17. The Voice of the Sea

    by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

    In the hush of the autumn night
    I hear the voice of the sea,
    In the hush of the autumn night
    It seems to say to me—
    Mine are the winds above,
    Mine are the caves below,
    Mine are the dead of yesterday
    And the dead of long ago!

    And I think of the fleet that sailed
    From the lovely Gloucester shore,
    I think of the fleet that sailed
    And came back nevermore!
    My eyes are filled with tears,
    And my heart is numb with woe—
    It seems as if 't were yesterday,
    And it all was long ago!

  18. A Sea-Change

    by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse

    Once in a year of wonder
    I brought to you a dream,
    And all your waves gave back to me
    Only its gleam.

    But now I come again, O Sea,
    Under a changing sky,
    And all your waves lie gray and still
    As dreams that die.

  19. La Mer

    by Oscar Wilde

    A white mist drifts across the shrouds,
    A wild moon in this wintry sky
    Gleams like an angry lion’s eye
    Out of a mane of tawny clouds.

    The muffled steersman at the wheel
    Is but a shadow in the gloom;—
    And in the throbbing engine-room
    Leap the long rods of polished steel.

    The shattered storm has left its trace
    Upon this huge and heaving dome,
    For the thin threads of yellow foam
    Float on the waves like ravelled lace.

  20. Sea Lyric

    by William Stanley Braithwaite

    Over the seas to-night, love,
    Over the darksome deeps,
    Over the seas to-night, love,
    Slowly my vessel creeps.
    Over the seas to-night, love,
    Waking the sleeping foam—
    Sailing away from thee, love,
    Sailing from thee and home.
    Over the seas to-night, love,
    Dreaming beneath the spars—
    Till in my dreams you shine, love,
    Bright as the listening stars.

  21. Voice of the Sea

    by William Stanley Braithwaite

    Voice of the sea that calls to me,
    Heart of the woods my own heart loves,
    I am part of your mystery—
    Moved by the soul your own soul moves.

    Dream of the stars in the night-sea's dome,
    Somewhere in your infinite space
    After the years I will come home,
    Back to your halls to claim my place.

  22. The Storm at Sea

    by Lydia Sigourney

    The good ship o'er the Ocean
    Glides on, while skies are bright,
    And rolling waves, right merrily
    Propel her homeward flight.

    But clouds and angry tempests,
    Rush from their prison cell,
    The rocky coast frowns dark and dread,
    The wintry surges swell.

    'Tis night.—Amid the breakers,
    The headlong vessel goes,
    And groaning, like a wounded man
    Strives with its vengeful foes.

    Pale grows the boldest mariner,
    For scarce the trumpet's cry,
    Is heard amid contending blasts
    That shake the astonish'd sky.

    How fearful is the tumult,
    The cry, the shriek, the prayer,
    Are mingled with the deaf'ning storm,
    In echoes of despair.

    But in the lonely cabin
    Rock'd by the raging sea,
    There calmly sat a beauteous boy,
    Upon his mother's knee;

    He sang a hymn of heaven,
    Then spoke so sweetly mild,
    "The Bible saith our Saviour dear
    Doth love the little child,—

    It telleth of a happy home,
    Above the stormy sky,
    Mother!—He'll take us there to dwell
    We're not afraid to die."

    His smile was pure and peaceful,
    As the pearl beneath the deep,—
    When the booming battle-thunders
    Across its bosom sweep.

    Hoarse came the words of horror
    From men of sinful life,
    While innocence, with soul serene
    Beheld the appalling strife.

    Morn! Morn!—The clouds are breaking,
    The tempest's wrath is o'er.
    The shatter'd bark moves heavily
    To reach the welcome shore.

    Hush'd is the voice of thunder,
    And quell'd the lightning's flame,
    For prayer had touch'd the gate of Heaven,
    And answer'ng mercy came.

  23. By the Sea

    by Christina Rossetti

    Why does the sea moan evermore?
    Shut out from heaven it makes its moan.
    It frets against the boundary shore;
    All earth's full rivers cannot fill
    The sea, that drinking thirsteth still.

    Sheer miracles of loveliness
    Lie hid in its unlooked-on bed:
    Anemones, salt, passionless,
    Blow flower-like; just enough alive
    To blow and multiply and thrive.

    Shells quaint with curve, or spot, or spike,
    Encrusted live things argus-eyed,
    All fair alike, yet all unlike,
    Are born without a pang, and die
    Without a pang,—and so pass by.

Ocean Sky

  1. Out of the Sunset's Red

    by William Stanley Braithwaite

    Out of the sunset's red
    Into the blushing sea,
    The winds of day drop dead
    And dreams come home to me. —
    The sea is still,— and apart
    Is a stillness in my heart.

    The night comes up the beach,
    The dark steals over all,
    Though silence has no speech
    I hear the sea-dreams call
    To my heart; — and in reply
    It answers with a sigh.

  2. Moonrise at Sea

    by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

    Up from the dark the moon begins to creep;
    And now a pallid, haggard face lifts she
    Above the water-line: thus from the deep
    A drownéd body rises solemnly.

  3. The moon is distant from the sea

    by Emily Dickinson

    The moon is distant from the sea,
    And yet with amber hands
    She leads him, docile as a boy,
    Along appointed sands.

    He never misses a degree;
    Obedient to her eye,
    He comes just so far toward the town,
    Just so far goes away.

    Oh, Signor, thine the amber hand,
    And mine the distant sea, —
    Obedient to the least command
    Thine eyes impose on me.

  4. The Moon and the Waves

    by Ruby Archer

    Whence they come and whither they go,
    The wild sea waves, no man may know.
    The spell of the moon
    Is on their shoon,
    She beckons them to and fro.

    Her law commands that lives be lost,
    That ships be broken and cargoes tossed,
    And the waves obey
    In the wicked play,
    Nor reck of the fearful cost.

    "Men go down to the sea in ships,"
    And coral grows on their coral lips.
    And the moon the while
    With a vampire
    Her nectar of life-blood sips.

  5. The Stars Above the Sea

    by Amos Russel Wells

    Far, far away one mystery greets
    Another vast and high,
    The infinite of waters meets
    The infinite of sky.

    The stars are singing hymns of calm
    Above the sea's unrest;
    Can ever that majestic psalm
    Dwell in the ocean's breast?

    What far horizon dim and low
    The sweet solution finds,
    Where earth's tumultuous yearnings know
    The peace of heavenly minds?

    And still the sky's imperial grace
    The tossing ocean mars;
    We cannot see the meeting place,
    But we can see the stars.

  6. Starlight at Sea

    by Katharine Lee Bates

    Over the murmurous choral of dim waves
    The constellations glow against the soft
    Ethereal dusk, —forever fair, aloft,
    Serene, while man climbs painfully from caves
    To cities, clamorous cities, life that raves
    Like surf against the rocks. It is not oft
    Our cities glimpse the stars, their luster scoffed
    Away by low, hard glitter that outbraves
    Night's blessing of the dark. But here upon
    Mid-ocean, all whose muffled voices ring
    A rapture lost to our vexed human wills,
    We see the primal radiance that shone
    On chaos, —see the young God shepherding
    His gleaming flocks on the empurpled hills.

  7. To The Moon Rising Above The Waters

    by Eliza and Sarah Wolcott

    Fair orb of eve, I view thee o'er the sea,
    While the proud waters kiss the radiant beam;
    Full, independent in thy course, thou'rt free—
    Rising like virtue, pure, in high esteem.

    Thou'rt unconfin'd to seas, or distant flood,
    High o'er the wilderness, thy visit pay,
    Where never voice or human footsteps trod,—
    Impartial beams, o'er nature's gifts display.

    I love to see thee, in the evening gray,
    Encircled round with stars of sparkling gold;
    I love to gaze upon thy parting ray,
    When silent sleep pervades the busy world.

    And then to wake at midnight's solemn hour,
    When thoughts of death, and judgment yet to come,
    Steal o'er the soul, with sweet persuasive power—
    Leading the mind to her eternal home.

    And then to gaze upon thee, Queen of Night,
    Rolling in silence o'er thy lonely way,
    Where countless stars, beyond thy borrow'd light,
    Are dimly twinkling through thy mazy ray.

    The muse, delighted in her lonely flight,
    Imagination soars from height to height,
    To unseen worlds, of far superior light,
    Where heavenly visions greet, with new delight.

    There on sublimer themes, my muse shall turn,
    While thoughts in holy meditations rove;—
    There deep devotion's lighted lamp shall burn,
    And all the sacred passions sweetly move.

Sea Creatures

  1. The Chambered Nautilus

    by Oliver Wendell Holmes

    This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
    Sails the unshadowed main,—
    The venturous bark that flings
    On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
    In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
    And coral reefs lie bare,
    Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

    Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
    Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
    And every chambered cell,
    Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
    As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
    Before thee lies revealed,—
    Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

    Year after year beheld the silent toil
    That spread his lustrous coil;
    Still, as the spiral grew,
    He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
    Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
    Built up its idle door,
    Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

    Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
    Child of the wandering sea,
    Cast from her lap, forlorn!
    From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
    Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
    While on mine ear it rings,
    Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—

    Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
    As the swift seasons roll!
    Leave thy low-vaulted past!
    Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
    Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
    Till thou at length art free,
    Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

  2. The Nautilus and the Ammonite

    by Anonymous

    The nautilus and the ammonite
    Were launched in friendly strife,
    Each sent to float in its tiny boat
    On the wide, wide sea of life.

    For each could swim on the ocean's brim,
    And, when wearied, its sail could furl,
    And sink to sleep in the great sea-deep,
    In its palace all of pearl.

    And theirs was a bliss more fair than this
    Which we taste in our colder clime;
    For they were rife in a tropic life—
    A brighter and better clime.

    They swam 'mid isles whose summer smiles
    Were dimmed by no alloy;
    Whose groves were palm, whose air was balm,
    And life one only joy.

    They sailed all day through creek and bay,
    And traversed the ocean deep;
    And at night they sank on a coral bank,
    In its fairy bowers to sleep.

    And the monsters vast of ages past
    They beheld in their ocean caves;
    They saw them ride in their power and pride,
    And sink in their deep-sea graves.

    And hand in hand, from strand to strand,
    They sailed in mirth and glee;
    These fairy shells, with their crystal cells,
    Twin sisters of the sea.

    And they came at last to a sea long past,
    But as they reached its shore,
    The Almighty's breath spoke out in death,
    And the ammonite was no more.

    So the nautilus now in its shelly prow,
    As over the deep it strays,
    Still seems to seek, in bay and creek,
    Its companion of other days.

    And alike do we, on life's stormy sea,
    As we roam from shore to shore,
    Thus tempest-tossed, seek the loved, the lost,
    And find them on earth no more.

    Yet the hope how sweet, again to meet,
    As we look to a distant strand,
    Where heart meets heart, and no more they part
    Who meet in that better land.

  3. Barnacles

    by Sidney Lanier

    My soul is sailing through the sea,
    But the Past is heavy and hindereth me.
    The Past hath crusted cumbrous shells
    That hold the flesh of cold sea-mells
    About my soul.
    The huge waves wash, the high waves roll,
    Each barnacle clingeth and worketh dole
    And hindereth me from sailing!

    Old Past let go, and drop i' the sea
    Till fathomless waters cover thee!
    For I am living but thou art dead;
    Thou drawest back, I strive ahead
    The Day to find.
    Thy shells unbind! Night comes behind,
    I needs must hurry with the wind
    And trim me best for sailing.

  4. Don't You See?

    by Katherine Lee Bates

    The day was hotter than words can tell,
    So hot the jelly-fish would n't jell.
    The halibut went all to butter,
    And the catfish had only force to utter
    A faint sea-mew — aye, though some have doubted,
    The carp he carped and the horn-pout pouted.

    The sardonic sardine had his sly heart's wish
    When the angel fish fought with the paradise-fish.
    'T was a sight gave the bluefish the blues to see,
    But the seal concealed a wicked glee —

    The day it went from bad to worse,
    Till the pickerel picked the purse-crab's purse.

    And that crab felt crabbeder yet, no doubt,
    Because the oyster would n't shell out.
    The sculpin would sculp, but had n't a model,
    And the codfish begged for something to coddle.

    But to both the dolphin refused its doll,
    Till the whale was obliged to whale them all.

  5. The Mermaid's Song

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    Come, mariner, down in the deep with me,
    And hide thee under the wave;
    For I have a bed of coral for thee,
    And quiet and sound shall thy slumber be
    In a cell in the Mermaid's cave!

    On a pillow of pearls thine eye shall sleep,
    And nothing disturb thee there;
    The fishes their silent vigils shall keep;
    There shall be no grass thy grave to sweep,
    But the silk of the Mermaid's hair.

    And she, who is waiting with cheeks so pale,
    As the tempest and the ocean roar,
    And weeps when she hears the menacing gale,
    Or sighs to behold her mariner's sail
    Come whitening up to the shore—

    She has not long to linger for thee!
    Her sorrows will soon be o'er;
    For the cord shall be broken, the prisoner free;
    Her eye shall close, and her dreams will be
    So sweet, she will wake no more!

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