Helen Gray Cone

(1859-1934 / United States)

The Going Out Of The Tide - Poem by Helen Gray Cone

The eastern heaven was all faint amethyst,
Whereon the moon hung dreaming in the mist;
To north yet drifted one long delicate plume
Of roseate cloud; like snow the ocean-spume.

Now when the first foreboding swiftly ran
Through the loud-glorying sea that it began
To lose its late gained lordship of the land,
Uprose the billow like an angered man,
And flung its prone strength far along the sand;
Almost, almost to the old bound, the dark
And taunting triumph-mark.

But no, no, no! and slow, and slow, and slow,
Like a heart losing hold, this wave must go,-
Must go, must go,-dragged heavily back, back,
Beneath the next wave plunging on its track,
Charging, with thunderous and defiant shout,
To fore-determined rout.

Again, again the unexhausted main
Renews fierce effort, drawing force unguessed
From awful deeps of its mysterious breast:
Like arms of passionate protest, tossed in vain,
The spray upflings above the billow's crest.
Again the appulse, again the backward strain-
Till ocean must have rest.

With one abandoned movement, swift and wild,-
As though bowed head and outstretched arms it laid
On the earth's lap, soft sobbing,-hushed and stayed,
The great sea quiets, like a soothed child.
Ha! what sharp memory clove the calm, and drave
This last fleet furious wave?

On, on, endures the struggle into night,
Ancient as Time, yet fresh as the fresh hour;
As oft repeated since the birth of light
As the strong agony and mortal fight
Of human souls, blind-reaching, with the Power
Aloof, unmoved, impossible to cross,
Whose law is seeming loss.

Low-sunken from the longed-for triumph-mark;
The spent sea sighs as one that grieves in sleep.
The unveiled moon along the rippling plain
Casts many a keen, cold, shifting silvery spark,
Wild as the pulses of strange joy, that leap
Even in the quick of pain.

And she compelling, she that stands for law,-
As law for Will eternal,-perfect, clear,
And uncompassionate shines: to her appear
Vast sequences close-linked without a flaw.
All past despairs of ocean unforgot,
All raptures past, serene her light she gives,
The moon too high for pity, since she lives
Aware that loss is not.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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