Down, down it swirled to the nether world;
While up from the riven main
Came the gurgling sound of those who drowned,
As the vortex closed again;
The sea surged back to its wonted track;
Once more ’twas a sun-lit plain!
But soon men saw, with deepening awe,
That sea grow white with spray;
Its brilliant hue was changed from blue
To a deathlike, leaden gray;
And a sullen roar approached the shore
Whence the ship had sailed away.
Huge waves rolled in with frightful din,
And spat out hissing foam,
And smote the sand along the strand,
And swept off many a home;
And lightnings flashed and thunder crashed
From heaven’s ink-black dome.
“Alas!” they cried, “that our brothers
In the depths of the sea of peace;
They have brought unrest to its quiet breast,
Which nevermore shall cease;
For the peace it lost we must pay the cost;
And behold! our woes increase!”
In truth, since then how many men
Have learned that the mighty deep
Can heave and swell to a seething hell,
When storms its surface sweep!
For its calm hath fled, and countless dead
Are the spoils it loves to heap.
But at its best, when it lies at rest
On a cloudless summer day,
And, tiger-like, forbears to strike,
But, sated, basks at play,
One seems to hear, with the psychic ear,
Its murmuring wavelets say,—
“No real relief from care and grief
Is found o’er distant waves;
The men who sail to find it, fail,
And sink to lonely graves;
In the firm control of man’s own soul
Is alone the peace he craves.”
Dear, old-time tunes of prayer and praise,
Heard first beside my mother’s knee,
Your music on my spirit lays
A spell from which I should be free,
If lapse of time gave liberty.
I listen, and the crowded years
Fade, dream-like, from my life, and lo!
I find my eyelids wet with tears,—
So much I loved, so well I know
Those plaintive airs of long ago!
They tell me of my vanished youth,
Of faith in what so flawless seemed,
Before the painful quest of truth
Had proved how much I then esteemed
Was other than I fondly dreamed!
They make my childhood live again;
And life’s fair dawn grows once more bright,
While listening to the sweet refrain,
Sung in the Sabbath’s waning light,—
“Glory to Thee, my God, this night!”
My mother’s voice, so pure and strong,
My father’s flute of silvery tone,
The little household’s strength of song,
The childish treble of my own,—
I hear them once more, but ... alone!
Sweet obligato to some hymn
Whose words those vanished tones recall,
Float o’er me, when earth’s scenes grow dim,
And life’s last, lingering echoes fall,
Till silence settles over all!