Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Poem.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Sea Dreams
by [?]


A city clerk, but gently born and bred;
His wife, an unknown artist’s orphan child–
One babe was theirs, a Margaret, three years old:
They, thinking that her clear germander eye
Droopt in the giant-factoried city-gloom,
Came, with a month’s leave given them, to the sea:
For which his gains were dock’d, however small:
Small were his gains, and hard his work; besides,
Their slender household fortunes (for the man
Had risk’d his little) like the little thrift,
Trembled in perilous places o’er a deep:
And oft, when sitting all alone, his face
Would darken, as he cursed his credulousness,
And that one unctuous mount which lured him, rogue,
To buy strange shares in some Peruvian mine.
Now seaward-bound for health they gain’d a coast,
All sand and cliff and deep-inrunning cave,
At close of day; slept, woke, and went the next,
The Sabbath, pious variers from the church,
To chapel; where a heated pulpiteer,
Not preaching simple Christ to simple men,
Announced the coming doom, and fulminated
Against the scarlet woman and her creed:
For sideways up he swung his arms, and shriek’d
`Thus, thus with violence,’ ev’n as if he held
The Apocalyptic millstone, and himself
Were that great Angel; `Thus with violence
Shall Babylon be cast into the sea;
Then comes the close.’ The gentle-hearted wife
Sat shuddering at the ruin of a world;
He at his own: but when the wordy storm
Had ended, forth they came and paced the shore,
Ran in and out the long sea-framing caves,
Drank the large air, and saw, but scarce believed
(The sootflake of so many a summer still
Clung to their fancies) that they saw, the sea.
So now on sand they walk’d, and now on cliff,
Lingering about the thymy promontories,
Till all the sails were darken’d in the west,
And rosed in the east: then homeward and to bed:
Where she, who kept a tender Christian hope
Haunting a holy text, and still to that
Returning, as the bird returns, at night,
`Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,’
Said, `Love, forgive him:’ but he did not speak;
And silenced by that silence lay the wife,
Remembering her dear Lord who died for all,
And musing on the little lives of men,
And how they mar this little by their feuds.

But while the two were sleeping, a full tide
Rose with ground-swell, which, on the foremost rocks
Touching, upjetted in spirts of wild sea-smoke,
And scaled in sheets of wasteful foam, and fell
In vast sea-cataracts–ever and anon
Dead claps of thunder from within the cliffs
Heard thro’ the living roar. At this the babe,
Their Margaret cradled near them, wail’d and woke
The mother, and the father suddenly cried,
`A wreck, a wreck!’ then turn’d, and groaning said,

`Forgive! How many will say, “forgive,” and find
A sort of absolution in the sound
To hate a little longer! No; the sin
That neither God nor man can well forgive,
Hypocrisy, I saw it in him at once.
Is it so true that second thoughts are best?
Not first, and third, which are a riper first?
Too ripe, too late! they come too late for use.
Ah love, there surely lives in man and beast
Something divine to warn them of their foes:
And such a sense, when first I fronted him,
Said, “trust him not;” but after, when I came
To know him more, I lost it, knew him less;
Fought with what seem’d my own uncharity;
Sat at his table; drank his costly wines;
Made more and more allowance for his talk;
Went further, fool! and trusted him with all,
All my poor scrapings from a dozen years
Of dust and deskwork: there is no such mine,
None; but a gulf of ruin, swallowing gold,
Not making. Ruin’d! ruin’d! the sea roars
Ruin: a fearful night!’