BY THE SHORE
by: Edward Carpenter (1844-1929)
- LL night
by the shore.
- The obscure water, the long white lines of advancing foam,
the rustle and thud, the panting sea-breaths, the pungent sea-smell,
The great slow air moving from the distant horizon, the immense
mystery of space, and the soft canopy of the clouds!
The swooning thuds go on--the drowse of ocean goes on:
The long inbreaths--the short sharp outbreaths--the silence between.
- I am a bit of the shore: the waves feed upon me, they come
pasturing over me;
I am glad, O waves, that you come pasturing over me.
I am a little arm of the sea: the same tumbling swooning dream
goes on--I feel the waves all around me, I spread myself through
How delicious! I spread and spread. The waves tumble through
and over me--they dash through my face and hair.
The night is dark overhead: I do not see them, but I touch them
and hear their gurgling laughter.
- The play goes on!
The strange expanding indraughts go on!
Suddenly I am the Ocean itself: the great soft wind creeps over
I am in love with the wind--I reach my lips to its kisses.
How delicious! all night and ages and ages long to spread myself
to the gliding wind!
But now (and ever) it maddens me with its touch, I arise and
whirl in my bed, and sweep my arms madly along the shores.
I am not sure any more which my own particular bit of shore is;
All the bays and inlets know me: I glide along in and out under
the sun by the beautiful coast-line;
My hair floats leagues behind me; millions together my children
dash against my face;
I hear what they say and am marvellously content.
All night by the shore;
And the sea is a sea of faces.
The long white lines come up--face after face comes and falls
Thud after thud. Is it pain or joy?
Face after face--endless!
I do not know; my sense numbs; a trance is on me--
- I am becoming detached!
I am a bit of the shore:
The waves feed upon me, they pasture all over me, my feeling
is strangely concentrated at every point where they touch me;
I am glad O waves that you come pasturing over me.
- I am detached, I disentangle myself from the shore;
- I have become free--I float out and mingle with the rest.
The pain, the acute clinging desire, is over--I feel beings like
myself all around me, I spread myself through and through them,
I am merged in a sea of contact.
Freedom and equality are a fact. Life and joy seem to have begun
The play goes on!
Suddenly I am the great living Ocean itself--the awful Spirit
of Immensity creeps over my face.
I am in love with it. All night and ages and ages long and for
ever I pour my soul out to it in love.
I spread myself out broader and broader for ever, that I may
touch it and be with it everywhere.
There is no end. But ever and anon it maddens me with its touch.
I arise and sweep away my bounds.
I know but I do not care any longer which my own particular body
is--all conditions and fortunes are mine.
By the ever-beautiful coast-line of human life, by all shores,
in all climates and countries, by every secluded nook and inlet,
Under the eye of my beloved Spirit I glide:
O joy! for ever, ever, joy!
I am not hurried--the whole of eternity is mine;
With each one I delay, with each one I dwell--with you I dwell.
The warm breath of each life ascends past me;
I take the thread from the fingers that are weary, and go on
with the work;
The secretest thoughts of all are mine, and mine are the secretest
thoughts of all.
All night by the shore;
And the fresh air comes blowing with the dawn.
The mystic night fades--but my joy fades not.
I arise and cast a stone into the water (O sea of faces I cast
this poem among you)--and turn landward over the rustling beach.
POEMS BY EDWARD CARPENTER
"By the Shore" is reprinted
from The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. Ed. Nicholson
& Lee. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1917.