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IV


THE CARIB SEA


KENNST DU?

Do you know the blue of the Carib Sea
Far out where there's nothing but sky to bound
The gaze to windward, the glance to lee,—
More deep than the bluest spaces be
Betwixt white clouds in heaven's round?
Have you seen the liquid lazuli spread
From edge to edge, so wondrous blue
That your footfall's trust it might almost woo,
Were it smooth and low for one to tread?
So clear and warm, so bright, so dark,
That he who looks on it can but mark
'Tis a different tide from the far-away
Perpetual waters, old and gray,
And can but wonder if Mother Earth
Has given a younger ocean birth.


Do you know how surely the trade-wind blows
To west-sou'west, through the whole round year?
How, after the hurricane comes and goes,
For nine fair moons there is naught to fear?
How the brave wind carries the tide before
Its breath, and on to the southwest shore?
How the Caribbean billows roll,
One after the other, and climb forever,—
The yearning waves of a shoreless river
That never, never can reach its goal?
They follow, follow, now and for aye,
One after the other, brother and brother,
And their hollow crests half hide the play
Of light where the sun's red sword thrusts home;
But still in a tangled shining chain
They quiver and fall and rise again,
And far before them the wind-borne spray
Is shaken on from their froth and foam,—
And for leagues beyond, in gray and rose,
The sundown shimmering distance glows!
—So bright, so swift, so glad, the sea
That girts the isles of Caribbee.


Do you know the green of those island shores
By the morning sea-breeze fanned?
(The tide on the reefs that guard them roars—
Then slips by stealth to the sand.)
Have you found the inlet, cut between
Like a rift across the crescent moon,
And anchored off the dull lagoon
Close by forest fringes green,—
Cool and green, save for the lines
Of yellow cocoa-trunks that lean,
Each in its own wind-nurtured way,
And bend their fronds to the wanton vines
Beneath them all astray?


Here is no mangrove warp-and-woof
From which a vapor lifts aloof,
But on the beaches smooth and dry
Red-lipped conch-shells lie—
Even at the edge of that green wall
Where the shore-grape's tendriled runners spread
And purple trumpet-creepers fall,
And the frangipani's clusters shed
Their starry sweets withal.
The silly cactuses writhe around,
Yet cannot choose but in grace to mingle,
This side the twittering waters sound,
On the other opens a low green dingle,
And between your ship and the shore and sky
The frigate-birds like fates appear,
The flapping pelican feeds about,
The tufted cardinals sing and fly.
So fair the shore, one has no fear;
And the sailors, gathered forward, shout
With strange glad voices each to each,—
Though well the harbor's depth they know
And the craven shark that lurks below,—
"Ho! let us over, and strike out
Until we stand upon the beach,
Until that wonderland we reach!"
—So green, so fair, the island lies,
As if 't were adrift from Paradise.