INSIDE PLUM ISLAND.
Harriet Prescott Spofford
We floated in the idle breeze,
With all our sails a-shiver;
The shining tide came softly through,
And filled Plum Island River.
The shining tide stole softly up
Across the wide green splendor,
Creek swelling creek till all in one
The marshes made surrender.
And clear the flood of silver swung
Between the brimming edges,
And now the depths were dark, and now
The boat slid o'er the sedges.
And here a yellow sand-spit foamed
Amid the great sea meadows,
And here the slumberous waters gloomed
Lucid in emerald shadows.
While, in their friendly multitude
Encamped along our quarter,
The host of hay-cocks seemed to float
With doubles in the water.
Around the sunny distance rose
A blue and hazy highland,
And winding down our winding way
The sand-hills of Plum Island, —
The windy dunes that hid the sea
For many a dreary acre,
And muffled all its thundering fall
Along the wild South Breaker.
We crept by Oldtown's marshy mouth,
By reedy Rowley drifted,
But far away the Ipswich bar
Its white caps tossed and shifted.
Sometimes we heard a bittern boom,
Sometimes a piping plover,
Sometimes there came the lonesome cry
Of white gulls flying over.
Sometimes, a sudden fount of light,
A sturgeon splashed, and fleeting
Behind the sheltering thatch we heard
Oars in the rowlocks beating.
But all the rest was silence, save
The rippling in the rushes,
The gentle gale that struck the sail
In fitful swells and gushes.
Silence and summer and the sun,
Waking a wizard legion,
Wove as we went their ancient spells
In this enchanted region.
No spectral care could part the veil
Of mist and sunbeams shredded,
That everywhere behind us closed
The labyrinth we threaded.
Beneath our keel the great sky arched
Its liquid light and azure;
We swung between two heavens, ensphered,
Within their charmed embrasure.
Deep in that watery firmament,
With flickering lustres splendid,
Poised in his perfect flight, we saw
The painted hawk suspended,
And there, the while the boat-side leaned,
With youth and laughter laden,
We saw the red fin of the perch,
We saw the swift manhaden.
Outside, the hollow sea might cry,
The wailing wind give warning;
No whisper saddened us, shut in
With sunshine and the morning.
Oh, far, far off the weary world
With all its tumult waited,
Forever here with drooping sails
Would we have hung belated!
Yet, when the flaw came ruffling down,
And round us curled and sallied,
We skimmed with bubbles on our track,
As glad as when we dallied.
Broadly the bare brown Hundreds rose,
The herds their hollows keeping,
And clouds of wings about her mast
From Swallowbanks were sweeping.
While evermore the Bluff before
Grew greenly on our vision,
Lifting beneath its waving boughs
Its grassy slopes Elysian.
There, all day long, the summer sea
Creams murmuring up the shingle;
There, all day long, the airs of earth
With airs of heaven mingle.
Bulging we went our happy way,
Singing old songs, nor noted
Another voice that with us sang,
As wing and wing we floated.
Till hushed, we listened, while the air
With music still was beating,
Voice answering tuneful voice, again
The words we sang repeating.
A flight of fluting echoes, sent
With elfin carol o'er us, —
More sweet than bird-song in the prime
Bang out the sea-blown chorus.
Behind those dunes the storms had heaped
In all fantastic fashion,
Who syllabled our songs in strains
Remote from human passion?
What tones were those that caught our own,
Filtered through light and distance,
And tossed them gayly to and fro
With such a sweet insistence ?
What shoal of sea-sprites, to the sun
Along the margin flocking,
Dripping with salt dews from the deeps,
Made this melodious mocking?
We laughed, — a hundred voices rose
In airiest, fairiest laughter;
We sang, — a hundred voices quired
And sang the whole song after.
One standing eager in the prow
Blew out his bugle cheerly,
And far and wide their horns replied
More silverly and clearly.
And falling down the falling tide,
Slow and more slowly going,
Flown far, flown far, flown faint and fine,
We heard their horns still blowing.
Then, with the last delicious note
To other skies alluring,
Down ran the sails; beneath the Bluff
The boat lay at her mooring.