By ways I know not of they come, wind-swept along the miles,
From the palm-encircled beaches of the jewelled southern isles,
Through stress of gales that shred their sails and split their straining spars,
Through nights of calm unbroken and the wonder of the stars:
And, sliding to their moorings where the harbor beacons shine,
They drop their sullen anchors for a moment, and are mine.
Of their questing grown a-weary, for a moment they abide,
Standing mutely and majestic, where the ripple of the tide
With its lazy lips is lapping in the shadows at their side.
Of the wind and waves beleaguered, and assailed of berg and floe,
To the ends of sea undaunted, these, my errant children, go;
Seeking out the northern waters, it is theirs a way to win
Through the grinding of the ice-pack, threading slowly out and in,
Where the castles of the Frost King in their pride and pallor rise,
Thrusting tower and buttress upward to the steely Arctic skies:
And a deep auroral glory from the white horizon grows,
Mounting swift towards the zenith and reflected on the snows,
Till each pinnacled escarpment turns to amethyst and rose.
Or, by southward pathways faring, where the stately islands are,
They, by beach and breaker gliding, run to safety by the bar;
And, their sails serenely furling where the motionless lagoon
In its lap as in a cradle holds the duplicated moon,
Hear the sound of sailors singing and the plash of rhythmic oars
Run to meet the midnight murmurs that are born along the shores.
But I fear not these enchantments; where the trumpet-creepers twine,
Though the air be filled with music, though the air be sweet as wine,
These my children stay not—may not. I am theirs, and they are mine.
Let them go their ways unquestioned, let them come, unquestioned still,
I shall wait them, I shall welcome, come they when or whence they will;
Am I not the Haven-Mother? ’T is a mother’s part to bide,
To be ready, to be tender, when the turning of the tide
Brings the rovers homeward, weary of their strivings with the sea,
To the sweet surcease that waits them in the port where they would be.
Let them roam to north or southward—wheresoe’er their ways are cast,
To my bosom backward turning when their journeying is past,
They shall gleam within the offing, and be mine again at last!
New York, 1897.