A Sabbath Morning at Sea

First printed in The Amaranth , 1839, as " A Sabbath on the Sea."


The ship went on with solemn face;
To meet the darkness on the deep,
The solemn ship went onward:
I bowed down weary in the place,
For parting tears and present sleep
Had weighed mine eyelids downward.


Thick sleep which shut all dreams from me,
And kept my inner self apart
And quiet from emotion,
Then brake away and left me free,
Made conscious of a human heart
Betwixt the heaven and ocean.


The new sight, the new wondrous sight!
The waters round me, turbulent,
The skies impassive o'er me,
Calm in a moonless, sunless light,
Half glorified by that intent
Of holding the day-glory!


Two pale thin clouds did stand upon
The meeting line of sea and sky,
With aspect still and mystic:
I think they did foresee the sun,
And rested on their prophecy
In quietude majestic,


Then flushed to radiance where they stood,
Like statues by the open tomb
Of shining saints half risen.
The sun! — he came up to be viewed,
And sky and sea made mighty room
To inaugurate the vision.


I oft had seen the dawnlight run
As red wine through the hills, and break
Through many a mist's inurning;
But, here, no earth profaned the sun:
Heaven, ocean, did alone partake
The sacrament of morning.


Away with thoughts fantastical!
I would be humble to my worth,
Self-guarded as self-doubted:
Though here no earthly shadows fall,
I, joying, grieving without earth,
May desecrate without it.


God's sabbath morning sweeps the waves;
I would not praise the pageant high
Yet miss the dedicature:
I, carried toward the sunless graves
By force of natural things, — should I
Exult in only Nature?


And could I bear to sit alone
'Mid Nature's fixed benignities,
While my warm pulse was moving?
Too dark thou art, O glittering sun,
Too strait ye are, capacious seas,
To satisfy the loving!


It seems a better lot than so,
To sit with friends beneath the beech,
And feel them dear and dearer;
Or follow children as they go
In pretty pairs, with softened speech,
As the church-bells ring nearer.


Love me, sweet friends, this sabbath day!
The sea sings round me while ye roll
Afar the hymn unaltered,
And kneel, where once I knelt to pray,
And bless me deeper in the soul,
Because the voice has faltered.


And though this sabbath comes to me
Without the stoled minister
Or chanting congregation,
God's Spirit brings communion, H E
Who brooded soft on waters drear,
Creator on creation.


Himself, I think, shall draw me higher
Where keep the saints with harp and song
An endless sabbath morning,
And on that sea commixed with fire
Oft drop their eyelids, raised too long
To the full Godhead's burning.
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