Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
From the Frail Sea
By Genevieve Taggard
Suggested by a Hawaiian legend

ONLY Ka-ne could do this
After the other gods failed:
Ka-ne, the careless creator
Who looked on
Indolently        5
While his industrious brothers, fretting over little tasks,
Wedged bones for the wings of birds
And carved mortals of coral.
Impatiently they looked up
From their litters of shells and feathers        10
When Ka-ne,
With the crash of fresh thunder,
Pro-created fire.
They knew he had made the sun
When they thought he was harmlessly playing.        15
Under the iridescence of stars
They had shielded their heads with their arms
When he wrung,
With a great laugh,
Day from the centre-knot of night.        20
Now in a moment of passion
Ka-ne, brooding and lusty,
Pro-created fire
In the dim womb of water.
Green and amber flooded,        25
The sea lay serene,
Warm to the brim of the tide,
Her full soft bosom blossoming
In vanishing flowers
On the sands.        30
Foam fronds
Too frail
To uncurl their hidden yellow stamens on the sands.
A quiet cupful of water,        35
Untouched by the tangles of reefs
And untorn by the violences of surfs;
With no knowledge of iron islands, or the cold harsh hands of storms:
Serene and frail,
From the gold honey of her long undulations        40
To the milky tendrils
That curled and coiled and clung
Against the sands.
So brooding,
Ka-ne leaned down        45
And took the sea;
And drew it, shimmering, into a single wave,
Until it touched heaven
And him.
Then, sobbing,        50
The sea slipped back
And spread, and became still.
A slow wavering
Went like a light
From end to end of the sea.        55
The sea, not the sky,
Was about to bear fire:
And the light of a drowned sun
Pushed up ridges of crystal.
Terrible gauzes of foam        60
Broke to its surfaces;
And the slant of great shadows blotted its round tides.
Then in agony
The sea screamed;
And fire, her enemy,        65
Tore her, with a long sound of rending
Like a silk garment.
Fire jumped from the wet sea,
Youngest of the elements.        70
For, like horses, had reared up
Eight slim-necked volcanoes:
Horses, stamping underneath,
And tossing manes of fire to the sun.
Then did the sea begin to learn—        75
After bearing Ka-ne
These eight sons, these eight frightful volcanoes—
How to make surf, like whips;
How to beat after the manner of mothers,
How to build reefs for the safety of her sons;        80
And how, when they threw hot stones at her who bore them,
To fling the foam of madness at their feet.

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