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

New England: Newport, R. I.

The Gray Cliff at Newport

By William Croswell Doane (1832–1913)

WHAT strivest thou for, O thou most mighty ocean,

Rolling thy ceaseless sweeping surfs ashore?

Canst thou not stay that restless, wild commotion?

Must that low murmur moan forevermore?

Yet thou art better than our hearts, though yearning

Still for some unattainéd, unknown land;

Thou still art constant, evermore returning,

With each fresh wind, to kiss our waiting strand.

O heart! if restless, like the yearning ocean,

Like it be all thy waves, of one emotion!

Whither, with canvas wings, O ship, art sailing,—

Homeward or outward bound, to shore or sea?

What thought within thy strong sides is prevailing,—

Hope or despair, sorrow or careless glee?

Thou, too, art like our hearts, which gayly seeming,

With hope sails set to catch each freshening breeze,

In truth art sad, with tears and trials teeming,—

Perhaps to sail no more on life’s wild seas.

O heart! while sailing, like a ship, remember,

Thou, too, mayst founder in a rough December!

Why your white arms, ye windmills, are ye crossing

In sad succession to the evening breeze,

As though within your gray old heads were tossing

Thoughts of fatigue and longings after ease?—

But ye are better than our hearts, for grieving

Over your cares ye work your destined way,

While they, their solemn duties weakly leaving,

In helpless sorrow weep their lives away.

O heart! if like those hoary giants mourning,

Why not be taught by their instructive warning!