Poem of the day

Stanzas on the Ocean
from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV
by Lord Byron (1788-1824)

      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.


      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.


      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.


      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.


      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.


      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.

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