Apostrophe to the Ocean
from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: Canto the Fourth (1818) by George Gordon Byron
CLXXVIII. There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society where none intrudes, By the deep Sea, and music in its roar: I love not Man the less, but Nature more, From these our interviews, in which I steal From all I may be, or have been before, To mingle with the Universe, and feel What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal. CLXXIX. Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean—roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin—his control Stops with the shore;—upon the watery plain The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own, When for a moment, like a drop of rain, He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown. CLXXX. His steps are not upon thy paths,—thy fields Are not a spoil for him,—thou dost arise And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise, Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies, And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray And howling, to his gods, where haply lies His petty hope in some near port or bay, And dashest him again to earth:—there let him lay. CLXXXI. The armaments which thunderstrike the walls Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake, And monarchs tremble in their capitals. The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make Their clay creator the vain title take Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war; These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake, They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar Alike the Armada’s pride, or spoils of Trafalgar. CLXXXII. Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee— Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they? Thy waters washed them power while they were free And many a tyrant since: their shores obey The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou, Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play— Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow— Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now. CLXXXIII. Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form Glasses itself in tempests; in all time, Calm or convulsed—in breeze, or gale, or storm, Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime Dark-heaving;—boundless, endless, and sublime— The image of Eternity—the throne Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime The monsters of the deep are made; each zone Obeys thee: thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone. CLXXXIV. And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be Borne like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy I wantoned with thy breakers—they to me Were a delight; and if the freshening sea Made them a terror—’twas a pleasing fear, For I was as it were a child of thee, And trusted to thy billows far and near, And laid my hand upon thy mane—as I do here.