Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Ocean
By George D. Prentice (1802–1870)
 
HOW 1 beautiful!—from his blue throne on high,
  The sun looks downward with a face of love
Upon the silent waters—and a sky,
  Lovelier than that which lifts its arch above,
Down the far depths of Ocean, like a sheet        5
  Of flame, is trembling!—the wild tempests cease
To wave their cloudy pinions!—Oh, ’tis sweet
  To gaze on Ocean in his hour of peace.
 
Years have gone by, since first my infant eyes
  Rested upon those waters. Once again,        10
As here I muse, the hours of childhood rise
  Faint o’er my memory, like some witching strain
Of half-forgotten music. Yon blue wave
  Still, still rolls on in beauty—but the tide
Of years rolls darkling o’er the lonely grave        15
  Of Hopes, that with my life’s bright morning died!
 
Look! look!—the clouds’ light shadows from above,
  Like fairy Islands, o’er the waters sweep!—
Oh I have dream’d my spirit thus could love
  To float for ever on the boundless deep,        20
Communing with the elements;—to hear,
  At midnight hour, the death-wing’d tempest rave,
Or gaze, admiring, on each starry sphere,
  Glassing its glories in the mirror wave;—
 
To dream—deep-mingling with the shades of eve—        25
  On Ocean’s spirits, caves, and coral halls,
Where, cold and dark, the eternal billows heave,
  No zephyr breathes, nor struggling sunbeam falls;—
As round some far Isle of the burning zone,
  Where tropic groves perfume the breath of morn,        30
List to the Ocean’s melancholy tone,
  Like a lone mourner’s on the night-winds borne;—
 
To see the infant wave on yon blue verge,
  Like a young eagle, breast the sinking sun,
And twilight dying on the crimson surge,        35
  Till, down the deep dark zenith, one by one,
The lights of heaven were streaming;—or to weep,
  The lost, the beautiful, that calmly rest
Beneath the eternal wave—then sink to sleep,
  Hush’d by the beating of the Ocean’s breast.        40
 
Oh it were joy to wander wild and free
  Where southern billows in the sunlight flash,
Or Night sits brooding o’er the northern sea,
  And all is still, save the o’erwhelming dash
Of that dark world of waters;—there to view        45
  The meteor hanging from its cloud on high,
Or see the northern fires, with blood-red hue,
  Shake their wild tresses o’er the startled sky!
 
’T is sweet, ’t is sweet to gaze upon the deep,
  And muse upon its mysteries.—There it roll’d,        50
Ere yet that glorious sun had learn’d to sweep
  The blue profound, and bathe the heavens in gold;—
The morning stars, as up the skies they came,
  Heard their first music o’er the ocean rung,
And saw the first flash of their new-born flame        55
  Back from its depths in softer brightness flung!
 
And there it rolls!—Age after age has swept
  Down, down the eternal cataract of Time,
Men after men on earth’s cold bosom slept,
  Still there it rolls, unfading and sublime!        60
As bright those waves their sunny sparkles fling,
  As sweetly now the bending heaven they kiss,
As when the Holy Spirit’s boding wing
  Moved o’er the waters of the vast abyss!
 
There, there it rolls.—I ’ve seen the clouds unfurl        65
  Their raven banner from the stormy west—
I ’ve seen the wrathful Tempest Spirit hurl
  His blue fork’d lightnings at the Ocean’s breast;
The storm-cloud pass’d—the sinking wave was hush’d—
  Those budding isles were glittering fresh and fair—        70
Serenely bright the peaceful waters blush’d,
  And heaven seem’d painting its own beauties there!
*      *      *      *
Ocean farewell!—Upon thy mighty shore,
  I loved in childhood’s fairy hours to dwell!—
But I am wasting—life will soon be o’er,        75
  And I shall cease to gaze on thee—farewell!—
Thou still wilt glow as fair as now—the sky
  Still arch as proudly o’er thee—Evening steal
Along thy bosom with as soft a dye—
  All be as now—but I shall cease to feel.        80
 
The evening mists are on their silent way,
  And thou art fading;—faint thy colors blend
With the last tinges of the dying day,
  And deeper shadows up the skies ascend;—
Farewell!—farewell!—the night is coming fast—        85
  In deeper tones thy wild notes seem to swell
Upon the cold wings of the rising blast—
  I go—I go—dear Ocean, fare thee well!
 
Note 1. Prentice was born in Preston, in Connecticut, in 1804, and graduated at Brown University in 1823. He is now the editor of the New England Weekly Review in Hartford. His poems have been published in the magazines and papers. [back]
 
 
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