Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI. 1876–79.

Miscellaneous: The Ocean

Night at Sea

By Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802–1838)

THE LOVELY purple of the noon’s bestowing

Has vanished from the waters, where it flung

A royal color, such as gems are throwing

Tyrian or regal garniture among.

’T is night, and overhead the sky is gleaming,

Through the slight vapor trembles each dim star;

I turn away—my heart is sadly dreaming

Of scenes they do not light, of scenes afar.

My friends, my absent friends!

Do you think of me, as I think of you?

By each dark wave around the vessel sweeping,

Farther am I from old dear friends removed;

Till the lone vigil that I now am keeping,

I did not know how much you were beloved.

How many acts of kindness little heeded,

Kind looks, kind words, rise half reproachful now!

Hurried and anxious, my vexed life has speeded,

And memory wears a soft accusing brow.

My friends, my absent friends!

Do you think of me, as I think of you?

The very stars are strangers, as I catch them

Athwart the shadowy sails that swell above;

I cannot hope that other eyes will watch them

At the same moment with a mutual love.

They shine not there, as here they now are shining;

The very hours are changed.—Ah, do ye sleep?

O’er each home pillow midnight is declining—

May some kind dream at least my image keep!

My friends, my absent friends!

Do you think of me, as I think of you?

Yesterday has a charm, To-day could never

Fling o’er the mind, which knows not till it parts

How it turns back with tenderest endeavor

To fix the past within the heart of hearts.

Absence is full of memory, it teaches

The value of all old familiar things;

The strengthener of affection, while it reaches

O’er the dark parting, with an angel’s wings.

My friends, my absent friends!

Do you think of me, as I think of you?

The world, with one vast element omitted—

Man’s own especial element, the earth;

Yet, o’er the waters is his rule transmitted

By that great knowledge whence has power its birth.

How oft on some strange loveliness while gazing,

Have I wished for you—beautiful as new,

The purple waves like some wild army raising

Their snowy banners as the ship cuts through.

My friends, my absent friends!

Do you think of me, as I think of you?

Bearing upon its wings the hues of morning,

Up springs the flying-fish like life’s false joy,

Which of the sunshine asks that frail adorning

Whose very light is fated to destroy.

Ah, so doth genius on its rainbow pinion

Spring from the depths of an unkindly world;

So spring sweet fancies from the heart’s dominion—

Too soon in death the scorched-up wing is furled.

My friends, my absent friends!

Whate’er I see is linked with thoughts of you.

No life is in the air, but in the waters

Are creatures, huge and terrible and strong;

The swordfish and the shark pursue their slaughters,

War universal reigns these depths along.

Like some new island in the ocean springing,

Floats on the surface some gigantic whale,

From its vast head a silver fountain flinging,

Bright as the fountain in a fairy tale.

My friends, my absent friends!

I read such fairy legends while with you.

Light is amid the gloomy canvas spreading,

The moon is whitening the dusky sails,

From the thick bank of clouds she masters, shedding

The softest influence that o’er night prevails.

Pale is she like a young queen pale with splendor,

Haunted with passionate thoughts too fond, too deep;

The very glory that she wears is tender,

The very eyes that watch her beauty fain would weep.

My friends, my absent friends!

Do you think of me, as I think of you?

Sunshine is ever cheerful, when the morning

Wakens the world with cloud-dispelling eyes;

The spirits mount to glad endeavor, scorning

What toil upon a path so sunny lies.

Sunshine and hope are comrades, and their weather

Calls into life an energy like Spring’s;

But memory and moonlight go together,

Reflected in the light that either brings.

My friends, my absent friends!

Do you think of me, then? I think of you.

The busy deck is hushed, no sounds are waking

But the watch pacing silently and slow;

The waves against the sides incessant breaking,

And rope and canvas swaying to and fro.

The topmast sail, it seems like some dim pinnacle

Cresting a shadowy tower amid the air;

While red and fitful gleams come from the binnacle,

The only light on board to guide us—where?

My friends, my absent friends!

Far from my native land, and far from you.

On one side of the ship, the moonbeam’s shimmer

In luminous vibrations sweeps the sea,

But where the shadow falls, a strange, pale glimmer

Seems, glowworm like, amid the waves to be.

All that the spirit keeps of thought and feeling

Takes visionary hues from such an hour;

But while some fantasy is o’er me stealing,

I start—remembrance has a keener power:

My friends, my absent friends!

From the fair dream I start to think of you.

A dusk line in the moonlight—I discover

What all day long I vainly sought to catch;

Or is it but the varying clouds that hover

Thick in the air, to mock the eyes that watch?

No; well the sailor knows each speck, appearing,

Upon the tossing waves, the far-off strand;

To that dark line our eager ship is steering.

Her voyage done—to-morrow we shall land.