The Gulls

By George Sterling

Leprous and bleak the marshes lie
  To leeward of the town,
And there, forgetful of the sky,
  The gulls walk up and down—

Waddle, not walk: the grace of flight
  Has sorry contrast there.
So a buffoon might please the sight,
  But not a thing of air.

Pure, at the ramparts of the Gate,
  The wheeling billows flash;
White, where the stainless beaches wait,
  The foaming breakers crash;

And purer there the boundless winds
  In solitude go free;
And cleanly there the roamer finds
  The scent of reef and sea.

Upon the marsh the winds are sick,
  The waters slack and foul;
And where the city's bilge is thick
  The sullied sea-birds prowl.

'Tis not the country's wholesome tilth
  Where once they tracked the plow:
From wave to mire, from foam to filth,
  The ocean-born go now.

The marshes reach in soot and scum
  To leeward of the town.
Like sailors in a city slum,
  The gulls go up and down.

~George Sterling, The Nation, March 22nd, 1922, pg 345

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