Celia Thaxter

(29 June 1835 – 25 August 1894 / Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

The Pimpernel


SHE walks beside the silent shore,
The tide is high, the breeze is still;
No ripple breaks the ocean-floor,
The sunshine sleeps upon the hill.

The turf is warm beneath her feet,
Bordering the beach of stone and shell,
And thick about her path the sweet
Red blossoms of the pimpernel.

“O sleep not yet, my flower!” she cries,
“Nor prophesy of storm to come;
Tell me that under steadfast skies
Fair winds shall bring my lover home.”

She stoops to gather flower and shell,
She sits, and, smiling, studies each
She hears the full tide rise and swell
And whisper softly on the beach.

Waking she dreams a golden dream,
Remembering with what still delight,
To watch the sunset’s fading gleam,
Here by the waves they stood last night.

She leans on that encircling arm,
Divinely strong with power to draw
Her nature, as the moon doth charm
The swaying sea with heavenly law.

All lost in bliss the moments glide,
She feels his whisper, his caress;
The murmur of the mustering tide
Brings her no presage of distress.

What breaks her dream? She lifts her eyes,
Reluctant to destroy the spell;
The color from her bright cheek dies, —
Close folded is the pimpernel!

With rapid glance she scans the sky:
Rises a sudden wind, and grows,
And charged with storm the cloud-heaps lie.
Well may the scarlet blossoms close!

A touch, and bliss is turned to bale!
Life only keeps the sense of pain;
The world holds naught save one white sail
Flying before the wind and rain.
Broken upon the wheel of fear
She wears the storm-vexed hour away;
And now in gold and fire draws near
The sunset of her troubled day.

But to her sky is yet denied
The sun that lights the world for her:
She sweeps the rose-flushed ocean wide
With eager eyes that quick tears blur.

And lonely, lonely all the space
Stretches, with never sign of sail,
And sadder grows her wistful face,
And all the sunset splendors fail.

And cold and pale, in still despair,
With heavier grief than tongue can tell,
She sinks, — upon her lips a prayer,
Her cheek against the pimpernel.

Wee blossoms wet with showery tears
On her shut eyes their droplets shed,
Only the wakened waves she hears
That singing drown his rapid tread.

'Sweet, I am here !' Joy’s gates swing wide,
And heaven is theirs, and all is well,
And left beside the ebbing tide
Forgotten is the pimpernel.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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