Sorrow on the Sea

A WHITE sail, shifting in the sun,
Drops slowly down the shadowy lake,
The heaving billows hardly make
A silver track in her green wake,
So lazily they run.

Down, down she drops, the feathery clouds
Lie loosen'd on the distant hills,
An oar-splash in the silence thrills,
Helping the wind that never fills
Her sail, but flaps her shrouds.

Down where those headlands, wildly fair,
Each with a beauty of its own,
Brown heather tuft, or dark grey stone,
Stand double, one in ocean thrown,
One cutting the clear air.

She drops, that scarcely seems to move,
Where calm those colour'd pictures sleep
In the still bosom of the deep;
As o'er man's heart the shadows creep
Of our life's grief and love.

Vain image! all that light and dark
Shall with the sun-gleams come and go;
With time and change it is not so,
Their shadows on the heart they throw,
But, ah! they leave their mark!

Change, change, O tide! Thy cold salt wave,
The same by rock and silver strand,
Unscathed shall leave the shadowy land,
Unstain'd shall bear the sunset's brand,
And kiss the coral cave.

But with our hearts 'tis different far:
The tide of life may ebb and flow,
Still the great love shall lurk below,
Still the deep wound of the great woe
Shall never, never scar.

A woman sitteth silently
In the boat's stern, nor weeps nor sighs;
But gazes where that dark rock lies,
As if the glare of dead men's eyes
Look'd at her through the sea.

Soul, sight, and sense, in one dark mist
Hang o'er the spot; the boatmen say: —
" Poor soul! five years gone and a day,
He went down in that treacherous bay,
And still she keeps her tryst. "

Out of the heart of that great town,
Where turbid Clyde awhile must stray
'Mid warehouse vast and busy quay,
Then leaves them, rushing through the spray,
Down to his Highlands brown:

Out of the noise of toil and crime,
The cry for wealth, the hot pursuit:
To where the sun set grandly mute,
O'er Cumbrae wild, and greener Bute,
And Arran's heights sublime,

Where, as the headlands of Argyle
Grew dim, and faded on the lee,
Fair Antrim's cliffs rose from the sea,
And the shafts carven wondrously,
Of the huge giant's pile,

She came — out of the crush and gloom,
Into the ocean's broken blue,
The glory of the distant view;
Still her poor heart, too sadly true,
Beat but to one low tomb.

In the old abbey's keeping laid,
Where shadows into shadows merge,
He lieth sweetly: while the surge,
Repentant, sings a ceaseless dirge
Around the graves it made.

There will she find a vent for tears,
And hug the turf, and sing: " Alas,
There is so long a time to pass
Ere I shall lie beneath this grass,
I am so young in years! "

Or in a calmer mood she sits,
All a long summer's day alone,
And decks the grave with flowers new blown,
And plucks the grey moss from the stone,
And weeps and prays by fits.

To her great loneliness of grief
No human voice draws ever nigh;
Ah, mountain airs that pass me by!
Ah, blue drifts in the clouded sky!
Can ye not bring relief?

Dark headlands rooted in the wave,
With sunset glories on your face,
And storm-tost billows at your base,
Can ye not tell of woe by grace
Made noble, pure, and brave?

Can ye not tell of holy calm
In some high region where the mind —
This dust and ashes left behind —
For bleeding love a salve shall find,
For separation, balm?

That sunless land is bright and green;
Its flowers are fair; but evermore
Cold death hangs looming on the shore,
And we but think how sad and sore
The entering in hath been.

As if a bird, her wings spread wide
For scented groves in sunnier land,
Should linger in the mud and sand,
Where from some short low-lying strand
Creeps back the northern tide.

As if, through that blind-driving mist,
The golden hills we could not see,
Nor feel how fast the shadows flee,
How long the bright eternity,
There with our risen Christ.

Who sits for ever by the cross,
And only kisses the pierced feet,
And hears the painful pulses beat,
Though that great agony be sweet;
Surely he hath a loss.

He never brought his spice and myrrh,
And watch'd all night where Jesus lay,
Till the grave heaved at break of day,
And the seal'd stone was roll'd away;
He never heard the stir

Of wings that pant, and harps that quiver,
When He who died that heaven to win,
The King of Glory, enter'd in,
An intercessor for our sin,
At God's right hand for ever.

Bear, bear her where that music rolls,
And let her lie at those pierced feet,
(But treading now the golden street,)
And let her hear the strains that greet
His own redeemed souls.

Let grief's long passion pass away,
That parting never more to be,
The cold low grave beside the sea,
The shriek of his death agony,
The rock in the blue bay.

Bear her where only such a heart
Can cease to sorrow and to yearn —
For only there love meets return,
And only there eyes never mourn,
And loved ones never part.

Then bring her back where burden'd Clyde
Round many a lashing wheel raves white,
There, calm and still in faith's dear might,
Her loving heart shall read you right,
Strains of the hill and tide.
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