Elizabeth Stoddard



From The Headland

by Elizabeth Stoddard

I hear the waters of some inlet now
Come lapping to the fringe of yonder wood
The storm-bent firs, and oaks along the cliff.
The yellow leaves are glistening in the grass,
The grassy slope I climb this autumn day.
Ensnaring me, the brambles clutch my feet,
As if constraining me to be a guest
To the wild, silent populace they shield.
It cannot say, nor I, why we are here.
What is my recompense upon this soil,
For other paths are mine if I go hence,
Still must I make the mystery my quest?
For here or there, I think, one sways my will.
There is no show of beauty to delight
The vision here, or strike the electric chord
Which makes the present and the past as one.
No thickets where the thrushes sing in maze
Of green, no silver-threaded waterfalls
In vales, where summer sleeps in darkling woods
With sunlit glades, and pools where lilies blow.
Here, but the wiry grass and sorrel beds,
The gaping edges of the sand ravines,
Whose shifting sides are tufted with dull herbs,
Drooping above a brook, that sluggish creeps
Down to the whispering rushes in the marsh.
And this is all, until I reach the cliff,
And on the headland's verge I stand, enthralled
Before the gulf of the unquenchable sea --
The sea, inexorable in its might,
Circling the pebbly beach with limpid tides,
Storming in bays whose margins fade in mist;
Now blue and silent as a noonday sky,
At twilight now the pearly rollers shake
The sunset's trail of violet and gold;
Or black, when rushing on the rocky isles
Anchored in waves that bellow to the winds.
I watch till comes the night; the moonlight falls,
The silvery deep on some far journey goes,
To solve for me, I think, this mystery.


Copyright 1895
Houghton, Mifflin And Company, Boston And New York