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Poem by Epes Sargent


Rockall is a solid block of granite, growing as it were out of the sea, at a greater distance from the mainland, probably, than any other island or rock of the same diminutive size in the world. It is only seventy feet high, and not more than a hundred yards in circumference. It lies at a distance of no fewer than one hundred and eighty-four miles nearly due west of St. Kilda, the remotest part of the Hebrides, and is two hundred and sixty miles from the north of Ireland.

PALE ocean rock! that, like a phantom shape,
Or some mysterious spirits tenement,
Risest amid this weltering waste of waves,
Lonely and desolate, thy spreading base
Is planted in the seas unmeasured depths,
Where rolls the huge leviathan oer sands
Glistening with shipwrecked treasures. The strong wind
Flings up thy sides a veil of feathery spray
With sunbeams interwoven, and the hues
Which mingle in the rainbow. From thy top
The sea-birds rise, and sweep with sidelong flight
Downward upon their prey; or, with poised wings,
Skim to the horizon oer the glittering deep.
  Our bark, careening to the welcome breeze,
With white sails filled and streamers all afloat,
Shakes from her dipping prow the foam, while we
Gaze on thy outline mingling in the void,
And draw our breath like men who see, amazed,
Some mighty pageant passing. What had been
Our fate last night, if, when the aspiring waves
Were toppling oer our mainmast, and the stars
Were shrouded in black vapors, we had struck
Full on thy sea-bound pinnacles, Rockall!
  But now another prospect greets our sight,
And hope elate is rising with our hearts:
Intensely blue, the skys resplendent arch
Bends over all serenely; not a cloud
Mars its pure radiance; not a shadow dims
The flashing billows. The refreshing air
It is a luxury to feel and breathe;
The senses are made keener, and drink in
The life, the joy, the beauty of the scene.
  Repeller of the wild and thundering surge!
For ages has the baffled tempest howled
By thee with all its fury, and piled up	
The massive waters like a falling tower
To dash thee down; but there thou risest yet,
As calm amid the roar of storms, the shock
Of waves uptorn, and hurled against thy front,
As when, on summer eves, the crimsoned main,
In lingering undulations, girds thee round!

Epes Sargent

Epes Sargent's other poems:
  1. To David Friedrich Strauss
  2. The Planet Jupiter
  3. The Sea-Breeze at Matanzas
  4. The Hearts Summer
  5. A Life on the Ocean Wave

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