Voyage of Life

I LAUNCHED my bark upon a waveless sea; —
The morning glowed, the sun just risen shone
In dazzling light along the glassy plain,
That seemed a golden mirror, or, as oft
A transient zephyr ruffled it, a flood
Of molten amber. How the purple sail,
And blue and crimson streamer wooed the wind.
At times the bellying bosom of the sheet
Received the rising gale, and onward bore
The white and glittering prow, as through the wave
It ploughed and heaved around the crested foam,
Like snow-wreaths resting on a ground of gold.
Again the rising zephyr died away,
The boundless air was still, the canvas flapped
And trembled on the yard, the streamers drooped,
And fluttering waved around the masthead, sea
And air were motionless: the crystal flood
Opened its awful depths beneath, — so clear,
The bark seemed hanging in the midway space
Between the sky above and earth below:
So still the elements, the briny drop,
That trickled from the prow to meet the wave,
Was heard distinctly, and the rippling shoal
Of blue-finned mackerel, or the whispering flight
Of the air-loving dweller of the deep,
Fell on my ear and woke me from my dream.
So passed the bark of life o'er childhood's sea,
But youth came on, and blustering winds arose;
Dark tempests gathered round, the howling blast
Roared through the cordage, every sail was rent,
The loosened helm gave way, and like the steed
Maddened with luxury, that flies the rein
And hurries on to ruin, so the bark
Ran wild before the tempest; now it rose
The billowy mountain, in the yawning gulf
Now headlong plunged; the shriek was then unheard
Amid the vaster tumult; then the night
Of storms enwrapped me, by the bursting foam,
The sparkling fire of ocean, or the flash,
The harbinger of thunder, or the pale
And baleful meteor of sickly green,
That on the bowsprit led the way to death,
Alone illumined. What a deafening roar
From bursting billows, how the breaker's voice,
Conflicting with the sea-beat crag, arose
And bellowed through the gloom; the sea-dog there,
Mounted above his danger, howled and bayed;
The dying whale, dashed on the splintery rock,
Groaned out his giant soul; the cormorant
Flapped his black wings around my head; the loon,
Perched on the topmast, sent his baleful scream,
Like the mad moanings of a tortured man.
So raged the storm around me, till a light,
Dimly discovered through the darkness, showed
Where help might yet be found; a secret hand
Then seemed to grasp the rudder, o'er the waves
The bark right onward held its steady course;
The tempest seemed to mitigate its rage,
The thunders ceased, the clouds spread out their veil
In thinner folds, and through a transient break
Sent a faint gleam of sunshine; from behind,
A gentle wind blew steady; in the west
The golden sky shone out, a larger curve
Of brightness every instant opened, till
The sun unveiled his face, and far away
The tempest hurried o'er the mountain waves:
It darkling flew, till on its bosom rose
The many-colored bow; serenity
Then filled the air, the white gull o'er me flew,
And the blue halcyon came and on the wave
Alighted, hid its head beneath its wing,
And slept as on a pillow; still the sea
Lifted its broad green back, and seemed to rock
Its fury to repose; I neared the land,
Blue hills first smiled, then sandy shores, like snow
Bleached on the heavenward mountain, caught my eye,
The lighthouse next, that with its warning fire
Calls from the deep the wanderer to his home.
The sun in cloudless majesty, as king
Of nature, kindled ocean with his rays,
And made the land more lovely; on I sailed,
The heaven spread its arms to call me in,
And clasp me in its bosom; there I steered,
And casting anchor, where no storm can rage,
Nor tempest rock me, on the peaceful breast
Of love eternal moored my bark for ever.
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