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by William Cullen Bryant


A day-dream by the dark-blue deep;

Was it a dream, or something more?

I sat where Posilippo's steep,

With its gray shelves, o'erhung the shore. -

On ruined Roman walls around

The poppy flaunted, for 'twas May;

And at my feet, with gentle sound,

Broke the light billows of the bay. -

I sat and watched the eternal flow

Of those smooth billows toward the shore,

While quivering lines of light below

Ran with them on the ocean-floor: -

Till, from the deep, there seemed to rise

White arms upon the waves outspread,

Young faces, lit with soft blue eyes,

And smooth, round cheeks, just touched with red. -

Their long, fair tresses, tinged with gold,

Lay floating on the ocean-streams,

And such their brows as bards behold-

Love-stricken bards- in morning dreams. -

Then moved their coral lips; a strain

Low, sweet and sorrowful, I heard,

As if the murmurs of the main

Were shaped to syllable and word. -

"The sight thou dimly dost behold,

Oh, stranger from a distant sky!

Was often, in the days of old,

Seen by the clear, believing eye. -

"Then danced we on the wrinkled sand,

Sat in cool caverns by the sea,

Or wandered up the bloomy land,

To talk with shepherds on the lea. -

"To us, in storms, the seaman prayed,

And where our rustic altars stood,

His little children came and laid

The fairest flowers of field and wood. -

"Oh woe, a long, unending woe!

For who shall knit the ties again

That linked the sea-nymphs, long ago,

In kindly fellowship with men? -

"Earth rears her flowers for us no more;

A half-remembered dream are we;

Unseen we haunt the sunny shore,

And swim, unmarked, the glassy sea. -

"And we have none to love or aid,

But wander, heedless of mankind,

With shadows by the cloud-rack made,

With moaning wave and sighing wind. -

"Yet sometimes, as in elder days,

We come before the painter's eye,

Or fix the sculptor's eager gaze,

With no profaner witness nigh. -

"And then the words of men grow warm

With praise and wonder, asking where

The artist saw the perfect form

He copied forth in lines so fair." -

As thus they spoke, with wavering sweep

Floated the graceful forms away;

Dimmer and dimmer, through the deep,

I saw the white arms gleam and play. -

Fainter and fainter, on mine ear,

Fell the soft accents of their speech,

Till I, at last, could only hear,

The waves run murmuring up the beach. - -