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

Miscellaneous: The Ocean

The Ocean

By Bryan Waller Procter (1787–1874)

(From Marcian Colonna)

O THOU vast ocean! ever-sounding sea!

Thou symbol of a drear immensity!

Thou thing that windest round the solid world

Like a huge animal, which, downward hurled

From the black clouds, lies weltering and alone,

Lashing and writhing till its strength be gone!

Thy voice is like the thunder, and thy sleep

Is as a giant’s slumber, loud and deep.

Thou speakest in the east and in the west

At once, and on thy heavy-laden breast

Fleets come and go, and things that have no life

Or motion, yet are moved and met in strife.

The earth hath naught of this: no chance nor change

Ruffles its surface, and no spirits dare

Give answer to the tempest-wakened air;

But o’er its wastes the weakly tenants range

At will, and wound its bosom as they go:

Ever the same, it hath no ebb, no flow;

But in their stated rounds the seasons come,

And pass like visions to their viewless home,

And come again, and vanish: the young Spring

Looks ever bright with leaves and blossoming;

And Winter always winds his sullen horn,

When the wild Autumn, with a look forlorn

Dies in his strong manhood; and the skies

Weep, and flowers sicken, when the Summer flies.

Thou only, terrible ocean, hast a power,

A will, a voice, and in thy wrathful hour,

When thou dost lift thine anger to the clouds,

A fearful and magnificent beauty shrouds

Thy broad green forehead. If thy waves be driven

Backward and forward by the shifting wind,

How quickly dost thou thy great strength unbind,

And stretch thine arms, and war at once with Heaven!

Thou trackless and immeasurable main!

On thee no record ever lived again

To meet the hand that writ it; line nor lead

Hath ever fathomed thy profoundest deeps,

Where haply the huge monster swells and sleeps,

King of his watery limit, who, ’t is said,

Can move the mighty ocean into storm,—

O, wonderful thou art, great element,

And fearful in thy spleeny humors bent,

And lovely in repose; thy summer form

Is beautiful, and when thy silver waves

Make music in earth’s dark and winding caves,

I love to wander on thy pebbled beach,

Marking the sunlight at the evening hour,

And hearken to the thoughts thy waters teach,—

“Eternity, Eternity, and Power.”