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Seashell Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Sea Shell by Arthur Weir
  2. Sea-Shell Murmurs by Eugene Lee-Hamilton
  3. Appreciation by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  4. Shell-Tints by John B. Tabb
  5. The Shell and the Heart by Ruby Archer
  6. The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes
  7. The Nautilus and the Ammonite by Anonymous
  8. Barnacles by Sidney Lanier

  1. The Sea Shell

    by Arthur Weir

    'Tis a dainty shell, 'tis a fragile shell
    At my feet that the wild waves threw,
    And I send it thee, that its lips may tell
    In thine ear that my heart is true.

    It will tell thee how by the sunlit sea
    Pass the hours we were wont to share.
    On its pearl-pink lips is a kiss for thee
    That my own loving lips placed there.

    In a lady's hand it will snugly lie,
    'Tis as thin as a red rose-leaf,
    Yet it holds the seagull's sorrowing cry,
    And the roar of the tide,-lashed reef.

    In its ivory cave, though the mighty sea
    May find room, and to spare, to move,
    Yet this same sea shell that I send to thee
    Is too small to contain my love.

  2. Sea-Shell Murmurs

    by Eugene Lee-Hamilton

    The hollow sea-shell which for years hath stood
    On dusty shelves, when held against the ear
    Proclaims its stormy parent; and we hear
    The faint far murmur of the breaking flood.
    We hear the sea. The sea? It is the blood
    In our own veins, impetuous and near,
    And pulses keeping pace with hope and fear
    And with our feelings' ever shifting mood.

    Lo! in my heart I hear, as in a shell,
    The murmur of a world beyond the grave,
    Distinct, distinct, though faint and far it be.
    Thou fool; this echo is a cheat as well,—
    The hum of earthly instincts; and we crave
    A world unreal as the shell-heard sea.

  3. Appreciation

    by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

    To the sea-shell's spiral round
    'T is your heart that brings the sound:
    The soft sea-murmurs that you hear
    Within, are captured from your ear.

    You do poets and their song
    A grievous wrong,
    If your own soul does not bring
    To their high imagining
    As much beauty as they sing.

  4. Shell-Tints

    by John B. Tabb

    Sea-shell, whence the rainbow dyes,
    Flashing in thy sunset skies?
    Thou wast in the penal brine,
    When appeared the saving sign.
    "Yea; but when the bow was bended,
    Hope, that hung it in the sky,
    Down into the deep descended
    Where the starless shadows lie;
    And with tender touch of glory,
    Traced in living lines of love,
    On my lowly walls, the story
    Written in the heavens above."

  5. The Shell and the Heart

    by Ruby Archer

    Even as the shell doth glow
    To myriad tints of beauty
    Only upon that side
    Not buried in the sand
    But yielded to the magic
    Of the sun,—
    So will the heart take on
    Its fairest hues of joy—
    The radiance of being—
    Turned to that light ineffable
    Of love.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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