I’ve seen the sunset flood the earth with streams
of rosy light,
And every foot of sea-line specked with twinklin’ sails of white;
I’ve woke ter find the sky a mess of scud and smoky wreath,
A blind wind-devil overhead and hell let loose beneath.
And then ter watch the rollers pound on ledges, bars and rips,
And pray fer them that go, O Lord, down ter the sea in ships!
Ter see the lamp, when darkness comes, throw out its shinin’ track,
And think of that one gleamin’ speck in all the world of black.
[Illustration: “It seems ter me that’s all there is: jest do your duty right.”]
And often, through a night like that, I’ve waited
fer the day
That broke and showed a lonesome sea, a sky all cold and gray;
And, may be, on the spit below, where sea-gulls whirl and screech,
I’ve seen a somethin’ stretched among the fresh weed on the beach;
A draggled, frozen somethin’, in the ocean’s tangled scum,
That meant a woman waitin’ fer a man who’d never come;
And all the drop of comfort in my sorrer I could git
Was this: “I done my best ter save; thank God, the lamp was lit.”
And there’s lots of comfort, really, to a strugglin’
In the sayin’, if it’s truthful, of “I done my level best”;
It seems ter me that’s all there is: jest do your duty right,
No matter if yer rule a land or if yer tend a light.
My lot is humble, but I’ve kept that lamp a-burnin’ clear,
And so, I reckon, when I die I’ll know which course ter steer;
The waves may roar around me and the darkness hide the view,
But the lights’ll mark the channel and the Lord’ll tow me through.
* * * * *
It stands at the bend where the road has its end,
And the blackberries nod on the vine;
And the sun flickers down to its gables of brown,
Through the sweet-scented boughs of the pine.
The roof-tree is racked and the windows are cracked,
And the grasses grow high at the door,
But hid in my heart is an altar, apart,
To the little old house by the shore.
For its portal so bare was a Paradise rare,
With the blossoms that clustered above,
When a mother’s dear face gave a charm to the place
As she sang at her labor of love.
And the breeze, as it strays through the window and plays
With the dust and the leaves on the floor,
Is a memory sweet of the pattering feet
In the little old house by the shore.
And again in my ears, through the dream of the years,
They whisper, the playmates of old,
The brother whose eyes were a glimpse of the skies,
The sister with ringlets of gold;
And Father comes late to the path at the gate,
As he did when the fishing was o’er,
And the echoes ring out, at our welcoming shout,
From the little old house by the shore.