Down on the seashore I found a shell,
Left by the tide in its noonday swell;
Only a white shell out of the sea,
Yet it bore sweet memories up to me
Of a shore where brighter shells are strown,
Where I stood in the breakers, but not alone.
“A pearly shell from a southern strand,
Hold it, my love, in thy whiter hand.”
His hand clasped mine, as I clasped the shell,
His voice was drowned in the tidal swell
But the words lost there come back to me
From the colder brine of a northern sea.
The waves may go and the waves may come,
With their crystal veils and hoods of foam,
But–sure as the ebb and the flow of tides–
Love–that is, true love–forever abides.
I found a white pebble down by the sea,
Fair as the one that he gave to me
When we stood in the twilight long ago,–
One of two pebbles, as white as snow.
We struck them together, and, lo! there shone
Soft flashes of light through the cloudy stone,
A luminous splendor that lit the spar
Till it shone like a flake from the twilight star.
And then–oh! so tenderly–breathing my name,
He whispered, “My love, the electric flame
That gives to each pebble a burning heart
While together, and leaves them so cold apart,
Is like to the mystical light and heat,
The glow of our spirits, when thus we meet.
Let no other waken that subtle flame
In thy pure young heart till I come again.”
The southern pebbles would flash once more,
Struck by a flint from this northern shore;
But the heart left dark, in that sunny clime,
Will brighten no more on the shores of time.
Out of the deeps of the still green sea
I saw the moon rise royally,
Wearing a blush on her pallid face,
A glow from the day-god’s warm embrace,
Like the moon we watched on that southern strand
While I stood with the white shell in my hand.
But, lo! as I watched her rise last night,
Through a soft glamour of memory light,
A ship that was sailing over the sea
Came stealing between the moon and me.
The moon was so red and the ship so pale,
With its spectral shrouds and snowy sail,
It came, as a shadow of today,
To warn my yearning soul away
With its ghastly sail and slender mast,
From dreaming over a passionate past.
Oh, the summer moons may rise and set
By that shimmering sea where first we met
While ships sweep on with their dumb white sails
The tides and the moonlight tell no tales.
I stood on a rock where the waters rave,
And snatched some seaweed out of the wave,–
A wreath of seaweed, frail and fair,
I twined it amid my dripping hair,
And thought of a far-off stormy day
When together we stood in the blinding spray,
When he crowned my brow with tendrils green,
And whispered,–“Darling, my ocean queen!”
But a great wild wave broke over me,
And drifted that garland out to sea,
Far away from the sandy beach,–
Seaward, seaward, beyond my reach.
We parted there, in the tidal swell,
It is echoing sadly, “Farewell, farewell,
I shall soon return, my love, to thee.”
He sailed in a strong ship over the sea!
O pitiless sea! O lonely shore!
For he will return to me–nevermore.