Thursday, August 20, 2009

a poem from Portland Head Light

The Lighthouse

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
and on its outer point, some miles away,
the lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.

Even at this distance I can see the tides,
Upheaving, break unheard along its base,
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
in the white tip and tremor of the face.

And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright,
through the deep purple of the twilight air,
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light,
with strange, unearthly splendor in the glare!

No one alone: from each projecting cape
And perilous reef along the ocean's verge,
Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
Holding its lantern o'er the restless surge.

Like the great giant Christopher it stands
Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
Wading far out among the rocks and sands,
The night o'er taken mariner to save.

And the great ships sail outward and return
Bending and bowing o'er the billowy swells,
And ever joyful, as they see it burn
They wave their silent welcome and farewells.

They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
And eager faces, as the light unveils
Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.

The mariner remembers when a child,
on his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink
And when returning from adventures wild,
He saw it rise again o'er ocean's brink.

Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same,
Year after year, through all the silent night
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
Shines on that inextinguishable light!

It sees the ocean to its bosum clasp
The rocks and sea-sand with the kiss of peace:
It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
And hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.

The startled waves leap over it; the storm
Smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
And steadily against its solid form
press the great shoulders of the hurricane.

The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
of wings and winds and solitary cries,
Blinded and maddened by the light within,
Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.

A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
Still grasping in his hand the fire of love,
it does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
but hails the mariner with words of love.

"Sail on!" it says: "sail on, ye stately ships!
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse.
Be yours to bring man neared unto man.


  1. I love it. There is nothing more awesome and poetic than a lighthouse. Thanks for this!

  2. I do have to agree...but you are welcome. ;-)

  3. No, I have not but I saw her discuss it when she was on her blog tour and it looks interesting. I mean, it has a lighthouse!!

  4. Just finished it, review coming on September 1st!

  5. That's a wonderful poem! I posted a picture of Portland Light in my blog today! How funny! I was thinking about Maine this morning.
    gmta lol

  6. This is beautiful! I wish I lived closer to an ocean..... lakes just don't cut it sometimes.

  7. I saw your comment at Jenners re BBAW nom for chattiest. Didn't you get nominated for humorous/funniest? ;)
    Congrats on your nom(s)!

    have a good week.

  8. Maggie, I like lakes and rivers and all, but the thought of living too far from the ocean just does not sit well with me.
    I think I have salt water in my blood..

  9. Caite...I'm so enjoying the lighthouse life here in Maine, that I'm way behing on reading blogs. Great post. I was out at Owls Head light the other day, and stopped to stare out from the light. Times like that I wish I were a poet, but then I get inspired to go read poetry. Thanks for a beautiful post.

  10. Oh, what a cute little lighthouse! And a wonderful location. Next time I am up there, I will have to check it out.

    You are right about the poet part. I don't have the I take pictures and use the words of much more qualified oh...Longfellow.

    hmmm...I am very fond of the central coast of Maine.


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