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A Seaside Idyl

by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard, 1895

I wandered to the shore, nor knew I then
What my desire,—whether for wild lament,
Or sweet regret, to fill the idle pause
Of twilight, melancholy in my house,
And watch the flowing tide, the passing sails,
Or to implore the air, and sea, and sky,
For that eternal passion in their power
Which souls like mine who ponder on their fate
May feel, and be as they—gods to themselves.
Thither I went, whatever was my mood.
The sands, the rocks, and beds of bending sedge,
I saw alone. Between the east and west,
Along the beach no creature moved besides.
High on the eastern point a lighthouse shone;
Steered by its lamp a ship stood out to sea,
And vanished from its rays towards the deep,
While in the west, above a wooded isle,
An island-cloud hung in the emerald sky,
Hiding pale Venus in its sombre shade.
I wandered up and down the sands, I loitered
Among the rocks, and trampled through the sedge:
But I grew weary of the stocks and stones.
"I will go hence," I thought; "the Elements
Have lost their charm; my soul is dead to-night.
Oh passive, creeping Sea, and stagnant Air,
Farewell! Dull sands, and rocks, and sedge, farewell."
Homeward I turned my face, but stayed my feet.
Should I go back but to revive again
The ancient pain? Hark! suddenly there came
From over sea, a sound like that of speech;
And suddenly I felt my pulses leap
As though some Presence were approaching me.
Loud as the voice of Ocean's dark-haired king
A breeze came down the sea,—the sea rose high;
The surging waves sang round me—this their song:
"Oh, yet your love will triumph! He shall come
In love's wild tumult; he shall come once more,—
By tracks of ocean or by paths of earth;
The wanderer will reach you and remain."
The breakers dashed among the rocks, and they
Seemed full of life; the foam dissolved the sands,
And the sedge trembled in the swelling tide.
Was this a promise of the vaunting Sea,
Or the illusion of a last despair?
Either, or both, still homeward I must go,
And that way turned mine eyes, and thought they met
A picture,—surely so,—or I was mad.
The crimson harvest-moon was rising full
Above my roof, and glimmered on my walls.
Within the doorway stood a man I knew—
No picture this. I saw approaching me
Him I had hoped for, grieved for, and despaired.
"My ship is wrecked," he cried, "and I return
Never to leave my love. You are my love?"
"I too am wrecked," I sighed, "by lonely years;
Returning, you but find another wreck."
He bent his face to search my own, and spake:
"What I have traversed sea and land to find,
I find. For liberty I fought, and life,
On savage shores and wastes of unknown seas,
While waiting for this hour. Oh, think you not
Immortal love mates with immortal love
Always? And now, at last, we know this love."
My soul was filling with a mighty joy
I could not show—yet must I show my love.
"From you whose will divided broke our hearts
I now demand a different kiss than that
Which then you said should be our parting kiss.
Given, I vow the past shall be forgot.
The kiss—and we are one! Give me the kiss."
Like the dark rocks upon the sands he stood,
When on his breast I fell, and kissed his lips.
All the wild clangor of the sea was hushed;
The rapid silver waves ran each to each,
Lapsed in the deep with joyous, murmured sighs.
Years of repentance mine, forgiveness his,
To tell. Happy, we paced the tranquil shores,
Till between sea and sky we saw the sun,
And all our wiser, loving days began.

Published in Poems

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