Lines on the View from St. Leonard's

Thomas Campbell

HAIL to thy face and odors, glorious Sea!

’T were thanklessness in me to bless thee not,

Great, beauteous Being! in whose breath and smile

My heart beats calmer, and my very mind

Inhales salubrious thoughts. How welcomer

Thy murmurs than the murmurs of the world!

Though like the world thou fluctuatest, thy din

To me is peace, thy restlessness repose.

Even gladly I exchange yon spring-green lanes

With all the darling field-flowers in their prime,

And gardens haunted by the nightingale’s

Long trills and gushing ecstasies of song,

For these wild headlands, and the sea-mews clang.


With thee beneath my windows, pleasant Sea,

I long not to o’erlook earth’s fairest glades

And green savannahs,—earth has not a plain

So boundless or so beautiful as thine;

The eagle’s vision cannot take it in;

The lightning’s wing, too weak to sweep its space,

Sinks half-way o’er it like a wearied bird;

It is the mirror of the stars, where all

Their hosts within the concave firmament,

Gay marching to the music of the spheres,

Can see themselves at once.

                            Nor on the stage

Of rural landscape are there lights and shades

Of more harmonious dance and play than thine.

How vividly this moment brightens forth,

Between gray parallel and leaden breadths,

A belt of hues that stripes thee many a league,

Flushed like the rainbow, or the ringdove’s neck,

And giving to the glancing sea-bird’s wing

The semblance of a meteor.

                            Mighty Sea!

Chameleon-like thou changest, but there ’s love

In all thy change, and constant sympathy

With yonder Sky,—thy mistress; from her brow

Thou tak’st thy moods and wear’st her colors on

Thy faithful bosom; morning’s milky white,

Noon’s sapphire, or the saffron glow of eve;

And all thy balmier hours, fair Element,

Have, such divine complexion, crispéd smiles,

Luxuriant heavings, and sweet whisperings,

That little is the wonder Love’s own Queen

From thee of old was fabled to have sprung,—

Creation’s common! which no human power

Can parcel or enclose; the lordliest floods

And cataracts that the tiny hands of man

Can tame, conduct, or bound are drops of dew

To thee, that couldst subdue the earth itself,

And brook’st commandment from the heavens alone

For marshalling thy waves.

                            Yet, potent Sea!

How placidly thy moist lips speak even now

Along yon sparkling shingles. Who can be

So fanciless as to feel no gratitude

That power and grandeur can be so serene,

Soothing the home-bound navy’s peaceful way,

And rocking even the fisher’s little bark

As gently as a mother rocks her child?


The inhabitants of other worlds behold

Our orb more lucid for thy spacious share

On earth’s rotundity; and is he not

A blind worm in the dust, great Deep, the man

Who sees not, or who seeing has no joy

In thy magnificence? What though thou art

Unconscious and material, thou canst reach

The inmost immaterial mind’s recess,

And with thy tints and motion stir its chords

To music, like the light on Memnon’s lyre!

The Spirit of the Universe in thee

Is visible; thou hast in thee the life,—

The eternal, graceful, and majestic life

Of nature, and the natural human heart

Is therefore bound to thee with holy love.

Earth has her gorgeous towns; the earth-circling sea

Has spires and mansions more amusive still,—

Men’s volant homes that measure liquid space

On wheel or wing. The chariot of the land

With pained and panting steeds and clouds of dust

Has no sight-gladdening motion like these fair

Careerers with the foam beneath their bows,

Whose streaming ensigns charm the waves by day,

Whose carols and whose watch-bells cheer the night,

Moored as they cast the shadows of their masts

In long array, or hither flit and yond

Mysteriously with slow and crossing lights,

Like spirits on the darkness of the deep.


There is a magnet-like attraction in

These waters to the imaginative power

That links the viewless with the visible,

And pictures things unseen. To realms beyond

Yon highway of the world my fancy flies,

When by her tall and triple mast we know

Some noble voyager that has to woo

The trade-winds and to stem the ecliptic surge.

The coral groves,—the shores of conch and pearl

Where she will cast her anchor and reflect

Her cabin-window lights on warmer waves,

And under planets brighter than our own;

The nights of palmy isles, that she will see

Lit boundless by the fire-fly,—all the smells

Of tropic fruits that will regale her,—all

The pomp of nature, and the inspiriting

Varieties of life she has to greet,

Come swarming o’er the meditative mind.


True, to the dream of fancy Ocean has

His darker tints; but where ’s the element

That checkers not its usefulness to man

With casual terror? Scathes not Earth sometimes

Her children with Tartarean fires, or shakes

Their shrieking cities, and, with one last clang

Of bells for their own ruin, strews them flat

As riddled ashes,—silent as the grave?

Walks not contagion on the air itself?

I should old Ocean’s saturnalian days

And roaring nights of revelry and sport

With wreck and human woe be loath to sing;

For they are few, and all their ills weigh light

Against his sacred usefulness, that bids

Our pensile globe revolve in purer air.

Here morn and eve with blushing thanks receive

Their freshening dews, gay fluttering breezes cool        120

Their wings to fan the brow of fevered climes,

And here the spring dips down her emerald urn

For showers to glad the earth.

                            Old Ocean was,

Infinity of ages ere we breathed

Existence, and he will be beautiful

When all the living world that sees him now

Shall roll unconscious dust around the sun.

Quelling from age to age the vital throb

In human hearts, death shall not subjugate

The pulse that swells in his stupendous breast,

Or interdict his minstrelsy to sound

In thundering concert with the quiring winds;

But long as man to parent nature owns

Instinctive homage, and in times beyond

The power of thought to reach, bard after bard

Shall sing thy glory, BEATIFIC SEA.