Sidney Lanier ( )

A Florida Ghost

Down mildest shores of milk-white sand,
By cape and fair Floridian bay,
Twixt billowy pines -- a surf asleep on land --
And the great Gulf at play,

Past far-off palms that filmed to nought,
Or in and out the cunning keys
That laced the land like fragile patterns wrought
To edge old broideries,

The sail sighed on all day for joy,
The prow each pouting wave did leave
All smile and song, with sheen and ripple coy,
Till the dusk diver Eve

Brought up from out the brimming East
The oval moon, a perfect pearl.
In that large lustre all our haste surceased,
The sail seemed fain to furl,

The silent steersman landward turned,
And ship and shore set breast to breast.
Under a palm wherethrough a planet burned
We ate, and sank to rest.

But soon from sleeps dear death (it seemed)
I rose and strolled along the sea
Down silver distances that faintly gleamed
On to infinity.

Till suddenly I paused, for lo!
A shape (from whence I neer divined)
Appeared before me, pacing to and fro,
With head far down inclined.

`A wraith (I thought) `that walks the shore
To solve some old perplexity.
Full heavy hung the draggled gown he wore;
His hair flew all awry.

He waited not (as ghosts oft use)
To be `dearheavend! and `ohd!
But briskly said: Good-evenin; whats the news?
Consumption? After boad?

Or mebbe youre intendin of
Investments? Orange-plantin? Pine?
Hotel? or Sanitarium? What above
This yeath CAN be your line?

Speakin of sanitariums, now,
Jest look ee here, my friend:
I know a little story, -- well, I swow,
Wait till you hear the end!

Some year or more ago, I spose,
I roamed from Maine to Floridy,
And, -- see where them Palmettos grows?
I bought that little key,

Callatin for to build right off
A clossal sanitarium:
Big surf! Gulf breeze! Jest death upon a cough!
-- I run it high, to hum!

Well, sir, I went to work in style:
Bought me a steamboat, loaded it
With my hotel (pyazers moren a mile!)
Already framed and fit,

Insured em, fetched em safe around,
Put up my buildin, moored my boat,
COM-plete! then went to bed and slept as sound
As if Id paid a note.

Now on that very night a squall,
Cum up from someeres -- some bad place!
An blowed an tore an reared an pitched an all,
-- I had to run a race

Right out o bed from that hotel
An git to yonder risin ground,
For, twixt the sea that riz and rain that fell,
I pooty nigh was drowned!

An thar I stood till mornin cum,
Right on yon little knoll of sand,
FreQUENTly wishin I had stayed to hum
Fur from this tarnal land.

When mornin cum, I took a good
Long look, and -- well, sir, sures Im ME --
That boat laid right whar that hotel had stood,
And HIT sailed out to sea!

No: Ill not keep you: good-bye, friend.
Dont think about it much, -- preehaps
Your brain might git see-sawin, end for end,
Like them asylum chaps,

For here *I* walk, forevermore,
A-tryin to make it gee,
How one same wind could blow my ship to shore
And my hotel to sea!

Sidney Lanier's other poems:
  1. On Huntingdons "Miranda"
  2. Laus Mariae
  3. Resurrection
  4. My Springs
  5. A Birthday Song

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