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Bliss Carman, et al., eds. The World’s Best Poetry. 1904.

VII. The Sea

The Sea Shell

William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

From “The Excursion,” Book IV.

I HAVE seen

A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract

Of inland ground, applying to his ear

The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell;

To which, in silence hushed, his very soul

Listened intensely; and his countenance soon

Brightened with joy; for from within were heard

Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed

Mysterious union with its native sea.

Even such a shell the universe itself

Is to the ear of Faith; and there are times,

I doubt not, when to you it doth impart

Authentic tidings of invisible things;

Of ebb and flow, and ever-during power;

And central peace, subsisting at the heart

Of endless agitation.