The Sea - The Grandmother's Story

For many the sea is a compelling force and it seems to call some souls to take a tall sailing adventure at high seas. Below is a poetic example of one young man who was drawn to those tall sails.

We sent him to school, we sent him to learn a trade, we sent him far back into the country; but it was of no use, he must go to sea. The Grandmother's Story

A child was ever haunted by a thought of mystery,
Of the dark, shoreless, desolate, heaving and moaning sea,
Which round about the cold, still earth goes drifting to and fro,
As a mother, holding her dead child, swayeth herself with woe.

In all the jar and bustle and hurrying of trade,
Through the hoarse, distracting din by rattling pavements made,
There sounded ever in his ear a low and solemn moan,
And his soul grew sick with listening to that deep undertone.

He wandered from the busy streets, he wandered far away,
To where the dim old forest stands, and in its shadows lay,
And listened to the song it sang; but its murmurs seemed to be
The whispered echo of the sad, sweet warbling of the sea.

His soul grew sick with longing, and shadowy and dim
Seemed all the beauty of the land, and all its joys, to him,
Its mountains vast, its forests old. He only longed to be
Away upon the measureless, unfathomed, restless sea.

Thither he went. The foam-capped waves yet beat upon the strand,
With a low and solemn murmuring that none may understand;
And he lieth drifting to and fro, amid the ocean's roar,
With the drifting tide he loved to hear, but shall hear never more.
And thus we all are haunted, there soundeth in our ear,
A low and restless moaning, that we struggle not to hear.
Yet still it soundeth, the faint cry of the dark deeps of the soul,
Dark, barren, restless, as the sea which doth for ever roll.

Hither and thither, bearing still some half-shaped form of good,
The flickering shadow of the moon upon the "moon-led flood."
And ever, 'mid all the joys and weary cares of life,
Through the dull sleep of sluggishness, and clangor of the strife,
We hear the low, deep murmuring of that Infinity
Which stretcheth round us dim and vast, as wraps the earth the sea.
And in the twilight dimness, in silence and alone,
The soul is almost startled by the power of its solemn tone.

When we view the fairest works of Nature and of Art,
They ever fill with longings, never satisfy, the heart;
But, like the lines of weed and shells that stretch along the beach,
And show how far the flowing tide and the high waters reach,
They seem like barriers to hold back, like weedy lines, to show
How far into this busy world the waves of beauty flow.

Yet when sweet strains of music rise about us, float, and play,
We almost dream these barriers of sense are broken away,
And that the beauty bound before is floating round us, free
As the bright, glancing waters of the ever-playing sea.

And for a little moment, the spirit seems to stand
With naked, wave-washed feet almost upon the strand.
But when she stoops to reach the wave, the waters glide away,
And whisper in an unknown tongue, she hears not what they say.
By John Bartlett, Cambridge 1853

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