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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Southern States: Sullivan’s Island, S. C.

By the Autumn Sea

By Paul Hamilton Hayne (1830–1886)

FAIR as the dawn of the fairest day,

Sad as the evening’s tender gray,

By the latest lustre of sunset kissed,

That wavers and wanes through an amber mist,—

There cometh a dream of the past to me,

On the desert sands, by the autumn sea.

All heaven is wrapped in a mystic veil,

And the face of the ocean is dim and pale,

And there rises a wind from the chill northwest,

That seemeth the wail of a soul’s unrest,

As the twilight falls, and the vapors flee

Far over the wastes of the autumn sea.

A single ship through the gloaming glides

Upborne on the swell of the seaward tides;

And above the gleam of her topmost spar

Are the virgin eyes of the vesper-star

That shine with an angel’s ruth on me,—

A hopeless waif, by the autumn sea.

The wings of the ghostly beach-birds gleam

Through the shimmering surf, and the curlew’s scream

Falls faintly shrill from the darkening height;

The first weird sigh on the lips of Night

Breathes low through the sedge and the blasted tree,

With a murmur of doom, by the autumn sea.

O sky-enshadowed and yearning main,

Your gloom but deepens this human pain;

Those waves seem big with a nameless care,

That sky is a type of the heart’s despair,

As I linger and muse by the sombre lea,

And the night-shades close on the autumn sea.