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Thomas William Parsons (Томас Уильям Парсонс)

The People of the Deep

Never hath navigator found
A nook where mortals have not been;
The floods are full, — all seas abound
With myriads of our kin;
And more humanity lies hidden
Fathomless leagues below the surge,
Than o'er its surface, tempest-ridden,
Their peopled navies urge.

Becalmed at midnight, on the deep,
Soon as our second watch was set,
On the damp deck I dropped asleep,
All troubles to forget;
But in my brain, that would not slumber,
Loved forms and lovely faces thronged,
Friends past my power to name or number,
And some to heaven belonged.

But one sweet shape, of beauty strange,
Broke my bright vision with a kiss;
I started, — ah! the bitter change,
From blessed dreams to this!
For, ah! how silent, dark, and lonely
These melancholy deserts are;
No life, save yon tired helmsman only,
Nor light, save here and there a star.

The drowsy mariner's dull tread
Is the sole sound that wakes mine ears;
How hushed! how desolate and dead
Creation's void appears!
"Thou dumb, thou lonely, lonely ocean!"
Chilled by my fancies, I began, —
"Fearful in stillness as in motion,
Thou art no place for man!

"Earth's wildernesses, everywhere,
Teem with some records of our race;
Even waste Palenque's fragments bear
Life's annals on their face.
But you, ye solitary waters!
What memories can ye recall?
Better to speak of crime and slaughters
Than tell no tale at all.

"Hark! to that heavy-breathing sound,
That seems the moaning of the sea,
Or of some whale on whose own ground
Rude trespassers are we.
This is Leviathan's dominion,
Where man is rash to stray;
Ah, might I borrow but thy pinion,
Swift sea-gull! for a day,

"This element, for monsters made,
Full swiftly would I leave behind,
And friends amid the forest shade
In gentler creatures find. "
Thus musing, sleep again stole o'er me,
And voices, in my second dream,
Came from a throng which rose before me, —
"How falsely dost thou deem!

"Behold! thy brethren fill the waves;
All the great gulfs are amply stored."
And, lo! from forth their coral caves
The ocean dwellers poured.
"We are the people of the waters!"
Faintly they gurgled in mine ear;
"Fathers and mothers, sons and daughters,
Old age and youth are here."

The scaly multitudes that swarm
In the green shelter of the bay,
Chased by the fury of the storm,
Less numerous were than they.
They came in armies, thickly crowding,
Fleshless and dripping, bleached and bare;
Sea-plants their bony bosoms shrouding,
Sands glistening in their hair.

"See! see!" they cried, "what legions strew
The sparkling pavement of the brine!
Our ancient universe below
Is populous as thine.
But wheresoe'er war's banners flying
Have brought the fleets of England's host,
There, foe by foe, together lying,
Our nations cluster most.

"Many and large our cities are,
Wide scattered over ocean's floor;
Some of us dwell near Trafalgar,
And some at Elsinore.
Some that were enemies, now brothers,
Linger about the immortal isle
Of Grecian Salamis, and others
Rest in the freshness of the Nile."

"Home! home! poor spectres," I replied,
"Till the seas dry at trump of doom;
Earth and her waters, far and wide,
Are only one huge tomb.
Till now I thought the main's chief treasure
Was pearls and heaps of jewels rare;
But, ah! what wealth, beyond all measure,
In mine own shape lies there!"

Then, musing on the valor, worth,
And beauty dwelling in the deep,
And the mean brood that God's good earth
In their possession keep,
I almost wished my parting minute
Might find me somewhere on the wave,
That I might join the brave within it,
And no man dig my grave.

Thomas William Parsons's other poems:
  1. Down by the Shore in December
  2. On a Bust of Dante
  3. Birthplace of Robert Burns
  4. St. Peray
  5. A Dirge

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