Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shades of Light

The Lighthouse

The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
and on its outer point, some miles away.
The lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
a pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.
Even at this distance I can see the tides,
upheaving, break unheard along its base.
A speechless wrath,
that rises and subsides in the white tip.
And tremor of the face.
And as the evening darkens,
how bright, through the deep purple of the twilight.
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light,
with strange, unearthly splendor in the glare.
No one alone: from each projecting cape
and perilous reef along the ocean's verge,
starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
holding its lantern over the restless surge.
It stands upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
wading far out among the rocks and sands,
the night taken a mariner to save.
The great ships sail outward and return Bending
and bowing to the billowy swells,
ever joyful as they see it burn.
They wave their silent welcome and farewell's.
They come forth from the darkness.
Their sails gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
and eager faces, as the light unveils a gaze at the tower,
vanishes while they gaze.
The mariner remembers when a child,
on his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink
and when returning from adventures wild,
he saw it rise again over the ocean's brink.
Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same,
year after year, through all the silent night.
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
shines on that inextinguishable light!
It sees the ocean to its bosum clasp
the rocks and sea sand with the kiss of peace:
It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
and hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.
The startled waves leap over it;
The storm smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
and steadily against its solid form;
Press the great shoulders of the hurricane.
The sea bird wheeling round it,
with the din of wings and winds and solitary cries,
blinded and maddened by the light within,
dashes himself against the glare, and dies.
A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
still grasping in his hand the fire of love,
it does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
but hails the mariner with words of love.
"Sail on!" it says: "sail on, ye stately ships!
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse.
Be yours to bring man neared unto man."

1 comment:

  1. Just thought I'd add that this classic poem was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and it was inspired by his many hours at Portland Head Light in Maine.