On Fifth Avenue

By George Sterling

Far wandered from his wonted deck
  My sailor stood, with lips austere,
And clean, cool eyes and rounded neck
  That comes of hauling at the gear.

Clad in his smartest stood he there,
  Aloof, alert, before the crowd,
With yellow, close-curled Saxon hair,
  Good shoulders, and a torso proud.

"What thinks he of the throng?" I mused,
  And watched him stare with steady gaze
Of eyes to the star and beacon used,
  To northern mists and tropic blaze.

For he was fresh from hostile seas,
  And straits where baffled currents swirled,
From waves that crush and winds that freeze
  Before the headlands of the world.

And he on drunken decks had trod,
  Lost in the storm's black universe,
When the stark spirit knows her God,
  Yet greets Him with a mindless curse;

When, man among unshaken men,
  He served the wills that stood to foil
The hurricane's compulsion—then
  Turned at its close to meaner toil.

"What are this thoughts?" I mused again,
  As  briskly on the sunlit pave
Passed folly's clan, the weak, the vain,
  The fop, the parasite, the slave—

Thousands by thousands through the hours,
  Withdrawn from life's realities,
And blinded to the wholesome powers
  That walk the mountains and the seas.

I gazed, and there was none to warn;
  I gazed incredulous, and saw
Those eyes that held the seas in scorn
  Filled now with envy and with awe!

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