No. III: The Burden of the Sea


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Isaiah, XXIII.

By Mrs. Fletcher, (Late Miss Jewsbury.)

THE sea hath spoken!  Hear, O Earth!
    Where everlasting hills arise;
And all the host of heaven, stand forth;
    Together with the crystal skies;—
And thou—world’s curse and blessing—MAN,
    Creating, desolating all
That mind may gather in its span—
    Stand forth, and bear a mightier thrall!

"I am thy prophet—puny world,
    'Tis God himself that speaks by me!
By me, his wrath is oftenest hurled;
    Hear, then, the vision of the sea:
Ye talk of kingdoms and of kings,
    Of fleets to triumph o’er me, born,
Know—that my weeds are mightier things,
    And laugh you in my depths to scorn.

"Famed cities with their harbours strong:
    Where now is Tyre? and Zidon where?
I made their power, and I have rung
    Their knell, upon the mountains bare:
The merchant and the mariner,
    In purple clothed, and sage with skill,
Looked on me as their Servitor
    They found I had a master's will.

"Old Ninus never dared my frown;
    Nor Belus, gorgeous power and bold;
Wise Egypt dared—and, overthrown,
    Her hosts lie gathered in my fold.
As ocean, or as inland sea,
    By golden Ind or Grecian isle,
I mock at man—the same to me
    The royal fleet, the pirate vile.

"I bear them to their port of rest—
    How loud their vaunts of lordly pride!
Like foam I dash them from my breast—
    How cruel then my waters wide!
Yet am I one, or calm or heaving,
    The changing, yet the changeless sea;
And victor, vanquished—joyous, grieving—
    But one, is mortal man to me.

"The billows that engulph a fleet
    And desolate a thousand homes,
The sea-bird skims with careless feet;
    The nautilus securely roams;
I know not little, know not great—
    Earth hath for me nor friend not foe:
To me God never gave a mate;
    The hollow of his hand I know.

"I work his will—a spirit bland,
    A gentle minister of good;—
Or scatter death from land to land,
    And make a burial place my flood.
Of myriad navies, myriad hosts,
    I have the wrecks beneath my waves;—
Call ye them trophies?—idle boasts!
    They match the coral of my caves.

"Vaunt on, proud creatures, formed of clay,
    Subdue, and build, and desolate;
And grave in brass from day to day
    Your strength, your glory, and your state:
March through your lands from east to west,
    And be like Lucifer’s your will;
But I am God’s—and on my breast
    Veil that high look—be meek—be still."

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