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A Story Of The Sea-Shore
by [?]

Then came the thought, too joyous to keep joy,
Turning to very sadness for relief:
To sit and dream through long hot summer days,
Shrouded in coolness and sea-murmurings,
Forgot by all till twilight shades grew dark;
And read and read in the Arabian Nights,
Till all the beautiful grew possible;
And then when I had read them every one,
To find behind the door, against the wall,
Old volumes, full of tales, such as in dreams
One finds in bookshops strange, in tortuous streets;
Beside me, over me, soul of the place,
Filling the gloom with calm delirium,
That wondrous woman-statue evermore,
White, radiant; fading, as the darkness grew,
Into a ghostly pallour, that put on,
To staring eyes, a vague and shifting form.

But the old castle on the shattered shore–
Not the green refuge from the summer heat–
Drew forth our talk that day. For, as I said,
I asked her if she knew it. She replied,
“I know it well;” and added instantly:
“A woman used to live, my mother tells,
In one of its low vaults, so near the sea,
That in high tides and northern winds it was
No more a castle-vault, but a sea-cave!”
“I found there,” I replied, “a turret stair
Leading from level of the ground above
Down to a vault, whence, through an opening square,
Half window and half loophole, you look forth
Wide o’er the sea; but the dim-sounding waves
Are many feet beneath, and shrunk in size
To a great ripple. I could tell you now
A tale I made about a little girl,
Dark-eyed and pale, with long seaweed-like hair,
Who haunts that room, and, gazing o’er the deep,
Calls it her mother, with a childish glee,
Because she knew no other.” “This,” said she,
“Was not a child, but woman almost old,
Whose coal-black hair had partly turned to grey,
With sorrow and with madness; and she dwelt,
Not in that room high on the cliff, but down,
Low down within the margin of spring tides.”
And then she told me all she knew of her,
As we drove onward through the sunny day.
It was a simple tale, with few, few facts;
A life that clomb one mountain and looked forth;
Then sudden sank to a low dreary plain,
And wandered ever in the sound of waves,
Till fear and fascination overcame,
And led her trembling into life and joy.
Alas! how many such are told by night,
In fisher-cottages along the shore!

Farewell, old summer-day; I lay you by,
To tell my story, and the thoughts that rise
Within a heart that never dared believe
A life was at the mercy of a sea.