Beyond the Breakers

  by: George Sterling (1869-1926)

 

 

 

 

The world was full of the sound of a great wind out of the West,
And the tracks of its feet were white on the trampled ocean's breast.
And I said, "With the sea and wind I will mix my body and soul,
Where the breath of the planet drives and the herded billows roll."

 

And down through the pines I went, to the shore-sands warm and white,
Till I saw from the ocean's verge the gulls in shrieking flight--
Till the wind was sharp in my face, and pure and strong in its sweep
From the smokeless dome of the world and a thousand leagues of the deep.

 

The breakers rose before me where the hard, wet sands were grey--
Each in its colored robe, fronting the newborn day;
The singing waves of the sea, clean beyond all of clean,
Beautiful, swift, alive, undulant, apple-green.

 

Who shall grapple with lions or wrestle with seraphim?
Even so can the surf come forth in its power to him--
Legion crying to legion, hurled to the steadfast shore;
Rampart answering rampart, where the flame-shaped summits roar.

 

And I flung me forth at their strength, at their might of motion and sound,
Till the foam-bolts stung my brow and the foam-chains ringed me around,
And the hissing ridges ran like dragons driven by gods--
Mad with the battle-cries and their unseen lashes and rods.

 

From fighting nostrils to feet the ocean clad me in cold,
Tingling, thrilling and sweet, a raiment none could behold,
As I rose with urging of arms to the shattered foam-crests' rain,
To look far over the deep and sink from the wind again.

 

O hills of voices and snows, O valleys of sapphire and calm,
That smote and wrenched and released to moments of respite and balm!
Splendid, young and eternal, from bridals of wind and sea,
Tho I sleep at last in your vaults, yet first ye shall war with me!

 

Furious, swift, they came, the pulse and surge of the deep,
Rank on rank in their beauty, poised for the shore-ward leap,
Lifting my form in crystal to gaze out over the West--
Grasping in sudden wrath at limbs and loins and breast.

 

Then was it as tho companions, godlike, alert, unseen,
Swam under and at my sides, with sight unerring and keen,
Touching, splashing and laughing (and I hear their laughter still),
Where the foam shot sudden veils in the waters torn and chill.

 

And I shouted to them in kinship, in ocean ardor and love,
Lifting an arm to the sun and the azure far above--
Mixing my voice with theirs and the sea-wind's lordly song--
Feeling them stir about me, the swimmers happy and strong.

 

Felt I not with them, the invisible at mirth,
The winds and wonder of life, the thrill and union of earth?
More intimate, more sure, for the sea's high loneliness,
Than the blinded sages dream, or the land-bound people guess.

 

The great embrace of ocean was closer than love's can be;
Its clasp was sharp on my limbs, yet went I supple and free.
The breast of the deep unheaved as a mother's under a child--
Terrible, tender, strong, imperial, undefiled.

 

So for a space I lived with life intense and aware,
Far from the human swarm and mortal folly and care--
I, the foam of earth, assoiled by the ocean-foam,
I, the homeless of worlds, forgetting the dream of Home.

 

Yet in the end it was earth that called me in from the vast,
Till the salt, wild waters boiled and the spray was thin on the blast,
And the undertow swept out, laughing at strength like mine,
Till I rode to shore on a wave that stung with its hurtled brine.


   More poems by George Sterling