Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  From “The North Shore Watch”

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

From “The North Shore Watch”

By George Edward Woodberry (1855–1930)

[Born in Beverly, Mass., 1855. Died there, 1930. From The North Shore Watch, and Other Poems. 1890.]


“ERE yet we knew Love’s name,” he said to me,

“He gave the new earth to our boyish hands;

For us morn blossoms, and the azure sea

Ruffles and smooths his long and gleaming sands

Upon a hundred strands;

In green and gold the radiant mist exhales,

When through the willow buds the blue March blows,

And sowing Persia through the world the rose

Reddens our western vales:

Clasped with the light, bathed with the glowing air,

Rest we in his embrace who made our paths so fair!”


Heavy is exile wheresoe’er it be!

Or where his armored ship’s strong bows divide

Green, empty hollows of the Afric sea,

Or where my broad-browed prairies, westering wide,

A race of men abide;

And life in exile is a thing of fears,

A song bereaved of music, a delight

That sorrow’s tooth doth feast on, day and night,

A hope dissolved in tears,

A poem in the dying spirit—aught

Lost to its use and beauty, desolate, idle, naught!

Heavy is exile wheresoe’er it be!

To miss the sense of love from out the days;

To wake, and work, and tire, nor ever see

Love’s glowing eyes suffused with tender rays—

Darling of human praise!

To lose Love’s ministry from out our life,

Nor gentle labor know for dear ones wrought,

When once Love lorded the thronged ways of thought,

And quelled the harsh world strife;

To feel the hungering spirit slowly stilled,

While hours and months and years the barren seasons build.

Ever to watch, like an unfriended guest,

The sun rise up and lead the days through heaven,

The silent days, on to the flaming west,

The unrecorded days, to darkness given,

Unloved, unwept, unshriven:

With our great mother, Earth, to live alone;

To clasp in silence Wisdom’s moveless knees;

To fix dumb eyes, that know fate’s whelming seas,

On her eternal throne;

While better seems it, were the soul sunk deep

In life’s death-mantled pool, sealed in oblivious sleep!

“Alas,” I cried, beneath the sun-bright sky,

“What profits it to search what Athens says—

To heap a little learning ere we die,

Blind pilgrims, walk the world’s deserted ways,

And lose the living days;

To cheat sad memory’s self with storied woes;

To summon up sweet visions out of books

Wherein old poets have enshrined love’s looks;

To seek in pain repose;

Oh, cup of bitterness he too must taste,

Shut in his homeless ship upon the salt sea-waste!”

What though o’er him the tropic sunset bloom,

With hyacinthine hues and sanguine dyes,

And down the central deep’s profoundest gloom,

Soft blossoms, fallen from the wreathèd skies,

The seas imparadise?

With light immingling, colors, dipped in May,

Through multitudinous changes still endure—

Orange and unimagined emeralds pure

Drift through the softened day;

“Alas,” he whispers, “and art thou not nigh?

Earth reaches now her height of beauty ere I die.”