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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Poems. IV. A Starlit Night by the Sea-Shore

William Walsham How (1823–1897)

[Suggested by Matthew Arnold’s “Self-dependence”]

O GREAT Stars, aflame with awful beauty!

O great Sea, with glittering heaving breast!

Stars, that march all calm in lines of duty;

Sea, that swayest to stern law’s behest;—

Mighty in your unimpassioned splendour,

Ye are filling all my puny soul

With the longing this vexed self to render

Wholly to calm Duty’s sure control.

It were restful so to let the ruling

Of the mightier law sway all the life,

Eager will and passionate spirit schooling,

Till unfelt the pains of lesser strife.

Yet, O Stars, your quivering shafts unheeding

On these tangled human sorrows smite;

Merciless Stars! that on hearts crushed and bleeding

Pour the sharp stings of your bleak cold light.

Yet, O Sea, that glittering breast is heaving,

All unconscious of the life it rears,

Shouting in the mirth of its bereaving,

Laughing o’er a thousand widows’ tears.

No! I ask not for a life high lifted

O’er the changeful passions of mankind,

Undistracted, self-contained, and gifted

With a force to feebler issues blind.

Rather fill my soul to overflowing

With the tide of this world’s grief and wrong;

Let me suffer; though it be well knowing

Suffering thus, I am not wholly strong.

Let what grandeur crown the life of others,

Let what light on lone endurance shine;

I will set myself beside my brothers,

And their toils and troubles shall be mine!