Poems, now first collected/A Sea-Change, at Kelp Rock


Just at this full noon of summer
There 's a touch, unfelt before,
Charms our Coastland, smoothing from her
The last crease her forehead wore:
She, too, drains the sun-god's potion,
Quits her part of anchorite,
Smiles to see her leaden ocean
Sparkle in the austral light;

While the tidal depths beneath her
Palpitate with warmth and love,
And the infinite pure æther
Floods the yearning creek and cove,
Harbor, woodland, promontory,
Swarded fields that slope between,—
And our gray tower, tinged with glory,
Midway flames above the scene.

On this day of all most luring,
This one morn of all the year,
Read I—soul and body curing
In the seaward loggia here—
Once, twice, thrice, that chorus sweetest
(Fortune's darling, Sophokles!)
Of the grove whose steeds are fleetest,
Nurtured by the sacred breeze;

Of Kolonos, where in clusters
Blooms narcissus—where unfold
Ivied trees their leafy lustres
And the crocus spreads its gold;
Where the nightingales keep singing
And the streamlets never cease,
To the son of Laius bringing
Rest at last, forgiveness, peace.

Drops the book—but from its prison
Tell me now what antique spell,
Through the unclaspt cover risen,
Moves the waves I know so well;
Bids me find in them hereafter,
Dimpled to their utmost zone
With the old innumerous laughter,
An Ægezn of my own?

Even so: the blue Ægean
Through our tendriled arches smiles,
And the distant empyrean
Curves to kiss enchanted isles:
Isles of Shoals, I know—yet fancy
This one day shall have free range,
And yon isles her necromancy
Shall to those of Hellas change.

Look! beyond the lanterned pharos
Girt with reefs that evermore,
Lashed and foaming, cry "Beware us!"
Cloud-white sails draw nigh the shore:
Sails, methinks, of burnished galleys
Wafting dark-browed maids within,
From those island hills and valleys,
Dread Athene's grace to win.

Sandalled, coiffed, and white-robed maidens,
Chanting in their carven boats;
List! and hear anon the cadence
Of their virginal fresh notes.
You shall hear the choric hymnos,
Or some clear prosodion
Known to Delos, Naxos, Lemnos,
Isles beneath the eastern sun.

'T is the famed Æolian quire
Bearing Pallas flowers and fruit—
Some with white hands touch the lyre,
Some with red lips kiss the flute;
You shall see the vestured priestess,
Violet-crowned, her chalice swing,
Ere yon cerylus has ceased his
Swirl upon "the sea-blue wing."

In the great Panathenæa
Climbing marble porch and stair,
Soon before the statued Dea
Votive baskets they shall bear,
Sacred palm, and fragrant censer,
But what vapor hoar,
What cloud-curtain dense, and denser,
Looms between them and the shore?

Off, thou Norseland Terror, clouding
Hellas with the jealous wraith
Which, the gods of old enshrouding,
Froze their hearts, the poet saith!
Vain the cry: from yon abysm
Now the fog-horn's woeful blast—
Stern New England's exorcism!—
Ends my vision of the past.