Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
The Sea-Mew
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
 
Affectionately Inscribed to M. E. H.

HOW joyously the young sea-mew
Lay dreaming on the waters blue
Whereon our little bark had thrown
A little shade, the only one,
But shadows ever man pursue.        5
 
Familiar with the waves and free
As if their own white foam were he,
His heart upon the heart of ocean
Lay learning all its mystic motion,
And throbbing to the throbbing sea.        10
 
And such a brightness in his eye
As if the ocean and the sky
Within him had lit up and nurst
A soul God gave him not at first,
To comprehend their majesty.        15
 
We were not cruel, yet did sunder
His white wing from the blue waves under
And bound it, while his fearless eyes
Shone up to ours in calm surprise,
As deeming us some ocean wonder.        20
 
We bore our ocean bird unto
A grassy place where he might view
The flowers that curtsey to the bees,
The waving of the tall green trees,
The falling of the silver dew.        25
 
But flowers of earth were pale to him
Who had seen the rainbow fishes swim;
And when earth’s dew around him lay
He thought of ocean’s wingëd spray,
And his eye waxëd sad and dim.        30
 
The green trees round him only made
A prison with their darksome shade;
And dropped his wing, and mournëd he
For his own boundless glittering sea—
Albeit he knew not they could fade.        35
 
Then One her gladsome face did bring,
Her gentle voice’s murmuring,
In ocean’s stead his heart to move
And teach him what was human love:
He thought it a strange, mournful thing.        40
 
He lay down in his grief to die,
(First looking to the sea-like sky
That hath no waves) because, alas
Our human touch did on him pass,
And with our touch, our agony.        45
 
 
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