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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

Ode: ‘I am the spirit of the morning sea’

By Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909)

I AM the spirit of the morning sea;

I am the awakening and the glad surprise;

I fill the skies

With laughter and with light.

Not tears, but jollity

At birth of day brim the strong man-child’s eyes.

Behold the white

Wide three-fold beams that from the hidden sun

Rise swift and far,—

One where Orion keeps

His armèd watch, and one

That to the midmost starry heaven upleaps;

The third blots out the firm-fixed Northern Star.

I am the wind that shakes the glittering wave,

Hurries the snowy spume along the shore

And dies at last in some fur-murmuring cave.

My voice thou hearest in the breaker’s roar,—

That sound which never failed since time began,

And first around the world the shining tumult ran.

I light the sea and wake the sleeping land.

My footsteps on the hills make music, and my hand

Plays like a harper’s on the wind-swept pines.

With the wind and the day

I follow round the world—away! away!

Wide over lake and plain my sunlight shines

And every wave and every blade of grass

Both know me as I pass;

And me the western sloping mountains know, and me

The far-off, golden sea.

O sea, whereon the passing sun doth lie!

O man, who watchest by that golden sea!

Weep not,—O weep not thou, but lift thine eye

And see me glorious in the sunset sky!

I love not the night

Save when the stars are bright,

Or when the moon

Fills the white air with silence like a tune.

Yea, even the night is mine

When the Northern Lights outshine,

And all the wild heavens throb in ecstasy divine;—

Yea, mine deep midnight, though the black sky lowers,

When the sea burns white and breaks on the shore in starry showers.

I am the laughter of the new-born child

On whose soft-breathing sleep an angel smiled.

And I all sweet first things that are:

First songs of birds, not perfect as at last,—

Broken and incomplete,—

But sweet, oh, sweet!

And I the first faint glimmer of a star

To the wrecked ship that tells the storm is past;

The first keen smells and stirrings of the Spring;

First snow-flakes, and first May-flowers after snow;

The silver glow

Of the new moon’s ethereal ring;

The song the morning stars together made,

And the first kiss of lovers under the first June shade.

My sword is quick, my arm is strong to smite

In the dread joy and fury of the fight.

I am with those who win, not those who fly;

With those who live I am, not those who die.

Who die? Nay—nay—that word

Where I am is unheard;

For I am the spirit of youth that cannot change,

Nor cease, nor suffer woe;

And I am the spirit of beauty that doth range

Through natural forms and motions, and each show

Of outward loveliness. With me have birth

All gentleness and joy in all the earth.

Raphael knew me, and showed the world my face;

Me Homer knew, and all the singing race,—

For I am the spirit of light, and life, and mirth.