Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Personal Poems
To Avis Keene
On Receiving a Basket of Sea-Mosses

      THANKS for thy gift
        Of ocean flowers,
    Born where the golden drift
    Of the slant sunshine falls
    Down the green, tremulous walls        5
  Of water, to the cool, still coral bowers,
  Where, under rainbows of perpetual showers,
    God’s gardens of the deep
    His patient angels keep;
  Gladdening the dim, strange solitude        10
    With fairest forms and hues, and thus
    Forever teaching us
The lesson which the many-colored skies,
The flowers, and leaves, and painted butterflies,
The deer’s branched antlers, the gay bird that flings        15
The tropic sunshine from its golden wings,
The brightness of the human countenance,
Its play of smiles, the magic of a glance,
    Forevermore repeat,
    In varied tones and sweet,        20
  That beauty, in and of itself, is good.
O kind and generous friend, o’er whom
    The sunset hues of Time are cast,
    Painting, upon the overpast
    And scattered clouds of noonday sorrow        25
    The promise of a fairer morrow,
An earnest of the better life to come;
    The binding of the spirit broken,
    The warning to the erring spoken,
      The comfort of the sad,        30
    The eye to see, the hand to cull
    Of common things the beautiful,
      The absent heart made glad
    By simple gift or graceful token
    Of love it needs as daily food,        35
    All own one Source, and all are good!
    Hence, tracking sunny cove and reach,
    Where spent waves glimmer up the beach,
    And toss their gifts of weed and shell
    From foamy curve and combing swell,        40
    No unbefitting task was thine
      To weave these flowers so soft and fair
    In unison with His design
      Who loveth beauty everywhere;
    And makes in every zone and clime,        45
      In ocean and in upper air,
    “All things beautiful in their time.”
    For not alone in tones of awe and power
        He speaks to man;
    The cloudy horror of the thunder-shower        50
        His rainbows span;
        And where the caravan
Winds o’er the desert, leaving, as in air
The crane-flock leaves, no trace of passage there,
        He gives the weary eye        55
The palm-leaf shadow for the hot noon hours,
        And on its branches dry
    Calls out the acacia’s flowers;
    And where the dark shaft pierces down
    Beneath the mountain roots,        60
  Seen by the miner’s lamp alone,
    The star-like crystal shoots;
    So, where, the winds and waves below,
    The coral-branchëd gardens grow,
    His climbing weeds and mosses show,        65
    Like foliage, on each stony bough,
    Of varied hues more strangely gay
    Than forest leaves in autumn’s day;—
      Thus evermore,
      On sky, and wave, and shore,        70
    An all-pervading beauty seems to say:
    God’s love and power are one; and they,
    Who, like the thunder of a sultry day,
      Smite to restore,
And they, who, like the gentle wind, uplift        75
The petals of the dew-wet flowers, and drift
      Their perfume on the air,
Alike may serve Him, each, with their own gift,
      Making their lives a prayer!


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