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And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright,
Through the deep purple of the twilight air, Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light
With strange, unearthly splendor in its glare !
Not one alone ; from each projecting cape
And perilous reef along the ocean's verge, Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
Holding its lantern o’er the restless surge.
Like the great giant Christopher it stands
Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave, Wading far out among the rocks and sands,
The night-o'ertaken mariner to save.
And the great ships sail outward and return,
Bending and bowing o'er the billowy swells, And ever joyful, as they see it burn,
They wave their silent welcomes and farewells.
They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
Gleam for a moment only in the blaze, And eager faces, as the light unveils,
Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.
The mariner remembers when a child,
On his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink ; And when, returning from adventures wild,
He saw it rise again o'er ocean’s brink.
Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same
Year after year, through all the silent night Burns on for evermore that quenchless flame,
Shines on that inextinguishable light!
It sees the ocean to its bosom clasp
The rocks and sea-sand with the kiss of peace; It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
And hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.
The startled waves leap over it; the storm
Smites it with all the scourges of the rain, And steadily against its solid form
Press the great shoulders of the hurricane.
The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
Of wings and winds and solitary cries, Blinded and maddened by the light within,
Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.
A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
Still grasping in his hand the fire of Jove, It does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
But hails the mariner with words of love.
“Sail on!” it says, “sail on, ye stately ships !
And with your floating bridge the ocean span ; Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse,
Be yours to bring man nearer unto man !”
THE FIRE OF DRIFT-WOOD.
We sat within the farm-house old,
Whose windows, looking o'er the bay, Gave to the sea-breeze, damp and cold,
An easy entrance, night and day.
Not far away we saw the port,
The strange, old-fashioned, silent town,The lighthouse,—the dismantled fort,
The wooden houses, quaint and brown.
We sat and talked until the night,
Descending, filled the little room ; Our faces faded from the sight,
Our voices only broke the gloom.
We spake of many a vanished scene,
Of what we once had thought and said, Of what had been, and might have been,
And who was changed, and who was dead;
And all that fills the hearts of friends,
When first they feel, with secret pain, Their lives thenceforth have separate ends,
And never can be one again ;
The first slight swerving of the heart,
That words are powerless to express, And leave it still unsaid in part,
Or say it in too great excess.
THE FIRE OF DRIFT-WOOD).
The very tones in which we spake
Had something strange, I could but mark ; The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
Oft died the words upon our lips,
As suddenly, from out the fire Built of the wreck of stranded ships,
The flames would leap and then expire.
And, as their splendor flashed and failed,
We thought of wrecks upon the main,Of ships dismasted, that were hailed
And sent no answer back again.
The windows, rattling in their frames,
The ocean, roaring up the beach, -
All mingled vaguely in our speech ;
Until they made themselves a part
Of fancies floating through the brain,The long-lost ventures of the heart,
That send no answers back again.
O flames that glowed ! O hearts that yearned !
They were indeed too much akin,
The thoughts that burned and glowed within.