George Gordon McCrae (9 May 1833 – 15 August 1927 / Leith, Scotland)
Morning at Sea in the Tropics
NIGHT waned and wasted, and the fading stars
Died out like lamps that long survived a feast,
And the moon, pale with watching, sank to rest
Behind the cloud-piled ramparts of the main.
Young, blooming Morn, crowned with her bridal wreath,
Bent o’er her mirror clear, the faithful sea;
And gazing on her loveliness therein,
Blushed to the brows, till every imaged charm
Flung roses on the bosom of the wave,
Then, glancing heavenward, both, they blushed again,
As sprang the Sun to claim his radiant bride;
And sea and sky seemed but one rose of morn,
Which thenceforth grew in glory, and the world
Shot back her lesser light upon the day,
While night sped on to seek the sombre shades
That sleep in silent caves beyond the sea.
The day grew calmer, hotter, and our barque
Lay like a sleeping swan upon a lake,
And such soft airs as blew from off the land
Brought with them fragrant odours, and we felt
That orange groves lay blooming ’neath the sun
Which blazed so fiercely overhead at sea.
We heard (with Fancy’s ear) a distant bell;
And thro’ the haze that simmered on the Main
Pictured a purple shore—a convent tow’r
And snowy cots, that from the dark hill-side
Peeped forth ’tween plantain-patches at the sky,
Or smiled through groves of cocos on the sea.
Meanwhile our ship slid on, with breathing sails
Fraught with the melody of murmured song
Such as the zephyr chanted to the morn,
And showers of diamonds flashed before the prow
While sternwards whirled unstrung—pale beads of foam,
Pearls from the loosen’d chaplet of the sea.
’Mid these the flame-bright Nautilus, that seemed
Itself a flow’ret cast upon the stream,
Spread out its crimson sail and drifted on.
Beyond arose a cloud (as ’twere) of birds,
That leapt from out the wave to meet the sun,
Flew a short circuit, till their wings grew dry,
And seaward fell in showers of silver rain.
’Mid these careered the dolphin-squadrons swift,
With mail of changeful hue, and Iris tints;
And floating slowly on, a sea-flow’r passed,
A living creature (none the less a flow’r)
That lives its life in love, and dies for joy,
Unmissed ’mid myriads in the sapphire sea.
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