Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Oceanica
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI.  1876–79.
 
Miscellaneous: The Ocean
The Ocean in Calm
John Wilson (1720–1789)
 
IT is the midnight hour;—the beauteous sea,
Calm as the cloudless heaven, the heaven discloses,
While many a sparkling star, in quiet glee,
Far down within the watery sky reposes.
As if the ocean’s heart were stirred        5
With inward life, a sound is heard,
Like that of dreamer murmuring in his sleep;
’T is partly the billow, and partly the air
That lies like a garment floating fair
Above the happy deep.        10
The sea, I ween, cannot be fanned
By evening freshness from the land,
For the land it is far away;
But God hath willed that the sky-born breeze
In the centre of the loneliest seas        15
Should ever sport and play.
The mighty moon she sits above,
Encircled with a zone of love,
A zone of dim and tender light
That makes her wakeful eye more bright:        20
She seems to shine with a sunny ray,
And the night looks like a mellowed day!
The gracious Mistress of the Main
Hath now an undisturbéd reign,
And from her silent throne looks down,        25
As upon children of her own,
On the waves that lend their gentle breast
In gladness for her couch of rest!
 
  My spirit sleeps amid the calm
The sleep of a new delight;        30
And hopes that she ne’er may wake again,
But forever hang o’er the lovely main,
And adore the lovely night.
Scarce conscious of an earthly frame,
She glides away like a lambent flame,        35
And in her bliss she sings;
Now touching softly the ocean’s breast,
Now mid the stars she lies at rest,
As if she sailed on wings!
Now bold as the brightest star that glows        40
More brightly since at first it rose,
Looks down on the far-off flood,
And there, all breathless and alone,
As the sky where she soars were a world of her own
She mocketh that gentle mighty one        45
As he lies in his quiet mood.
“Art thou,” she breathes, “the tyrant grim
That scoffs at human prayers,
Answering with prouder roar the while,
As it rises from some lonely isle,        50
Through groans raised wild, the hopeless hymn
Of shipwrecked mariners?
Oh, thou art harmless as a child
Weary with joy, and reconciled
For sleep to change its play;        55
And now that night hath stayed thy race,
Smiles wander o’er thy placid face
As if thy dreams were gay.”
 
  And can it be that for me alone
The main and heavens are spread?        60
Oh, whither, in this holy hour,
Have those fair creatures fled,
To whom the ocean-plains are given
As clouds possess their native heaven?
The tiniest boat, that ever sailed        65
Upon an inland lake,
Might through this sea without a fear
Her silent journey take,
Though the helmsman slept as if on land,
And the oar had dropped from the rowers’ hand.        70
How like a monarch would she glide,
While the husht billow kissed her side
With low and lulling tone,
Some stately ship, that from afar
Shone sudden, like a rising star,        75
With all her bravery on!
List! how in murmurs of delight
The blessed airs of heaven invite
The joyous bark to pass one night
Within their still domain!        80
O grief! that yonder gentle moon,
Whose smiles forever fade so soon,
Should waste such smiles in vain.
Haste! haste! before the moonshine dies
Dissolved amid the morning skies,        85
While yet the silvery glory lies
Above the sparkling foam;
Bright mid surrounding brightness, thou,
Scattering fresh beauty from thy prow,
In pomp and splendor come!        90
 
  And lo! upon the murmuring waves
A glorious shape appearing!
A broad-winged vessel, through the shower
Of glimmering lustre steering!
As if the beauteous ship enjoyed        95
The beauty of the sea,
She lifteth up her stately head
And saileth joyfully.
A lovely path before her lies,
A lovely path behind;        100
She sails amid the loveliness
Like a thing with heart and mind.
Fit pilgrim through a scene so fair,
Slowly she beareth on;
A glorious phantom of the deep,        105
Risen up to meet the moon.
The moon bids her tenderest radiance fall
On her wavy streamer and snow-white wings,
And the quiet voice of the rocking sea
To cheer the gliding vision sings.        110
Oh, ne’er did sky and water blend
In such a holy sleep,
Or bathe in brighter quietude
A roamer of the deep.
So far the peaceful soul of heaven        115
Hath settled on the sea,
It seems as if this weight of calm
Were from eternity.
O world of waters! the steadfast earth
Ne’er lay entranced like thee!
*        *        *        *        *
        120
 
 
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