Ocean Sunsets

By George Sterling


Men watch the wide magnificence uprolled,
    A deathless surf of glory down the zones—
    Ancient as that with which the sea intones
Its undelivered sorrow. Fold on fold
The foam of splendor deepens, far and cold,
    Below the stars' imaginary thrones,
    Till on the twilight of those sapphire stones
Are ashes of the sun-deserted gold.

Along the mighty rondure of the world
    Forever and forever sweeps that wave,
        From Arctic mountains to the southern-floe,
In Soundlessness on purple islands hurled,
    With opalescent wash of hues that lave
        Old summits, sacred in that afterglow.


How often, from the bleak sierra's crest,
    The northern headland, the deserted shore,
    Have eyes beheld that crimson billow soar,
To sink on Edens deeper in the West!
How often, on some fatal ocean-quest,
    That light has gleamed upon the lifted oar—
Is still the evading goal of oar unrest.

Oh! far in time and far on alien seas
    Its path has been the heroes' path of light,
        Down which the galley, goddess-lured, was drawn.
Wildly that radiance was cast on these,
    Till the red prow drove westward in the night,
        Followed by slow Arcturus and the dawn.


Roll on, tremendous surf, till the last eyes
    For the last time behold thy glory flame!
    Then, in the sea of darkness whence they came
Resolve thy splendor and reverting dyes!
They forfeit hues shall fade on somber skies,
    When, in a breath, man's grandeur and his shame
    Pass to the silences that have no name,
Where dreams are never and the night denies.

Thy marvel is of man and not of thee,
And lie being not, no longer thou shalt be.
    Parent and worshipper of loveliness,
        He walks a realm forbidden to the brute—
        An alchemist whose spirit can transmute
    Color and form to beauty's pure excess.

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