Frances Ellen Wat Harper

24 September 1825 – 22 February 1911 / Baltimore, Maryland


I hied me to the ocean-side;
Its waves rolled bright and high;
Upon its waters, spreading wide,
I gazed with beaming eye.
At last, at last, I said, is found
A charm to banish pain,--
Here, where the sprightly billows bound
Athwart the heaving main.

The pebbly beach I wandered o'er
At morn and evening's hour,
Or listening to the breakers' roar,
Or wondering at their power.
Beneath their din I madly sought,
With ev'ry nerve bestirred,
To drown for aye the demon, thought,--
But, ah! he _would be heard_.

He found a voice my ear to reach,
To pierce my aching breast,
In every wave that swept the beach
With proud, defiant crest.
And when the moon, with silver light,
Smiled o'er the waters blue,
It seemed to say 'There's nothing bright
O'er all this earth for you.'

Scarce half a moon have I been here,
Beside the sounding sea,
In hope its echoings in my ear
Might drown out memory;
Or might instil some vital life
Into this feeble frame,
Long spent and wasted by the strife
Wide-wrought against my name.

In vain, in vain!--nor sea, nor shore,
Nor any mortal thing,
Can to my cheek health's bloom restore,
Or clear my life's well-spring.
And yet there is a sea whose waves
Will roll above us all,--
Within its vasty depths are graves
Beyond all mortal call.

With what an awful note of dirge
This shoreless ocean rolls--
Bearing on its tremendous surge
The wealth of human souls!
----The Ocean of Eternity,--
O, let its billows sweep
O'er one that longeth to be free,
And sleep the dreamless sleep!
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