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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Eliza Cook 1812–89

The Sea-Child

HE crawls to the cliff and plays on a brink

Where every eye but his own would shrink;

No music he hears but the billow’s noise,

And shells and weeds are his only toys.

No lullaby can the mother find

To sing him to rest like the moaning wind;

And the louder it wails and the fiercer it sweeps,

The deeper he breathes and the sounder he sleeps.

And now his wandering feet can reach

The rugged tracks of the desolate beach;

Creeping about like a Triton imp,

To find the haunts of the crab and shrimp.

He clings, with none to guide or help,

To the furthest ridge of slippery kelp;

And his bold heart glows while he stands and mocks

The seamew’s cry on the jutting rocks.

Few years have wan’d—and now he stands

Bareheaded on the shelving sands.

A boat is moor’d, but his young hands cope

Right well with the twisted cable rope;

He frees the craft, she kisses the tide;

The boy has climb’d her beaten side:

She drifts—she floats—he shouts with glee;

His soul hath claim’d its right on the sea.

’T is vain to tell him the howling breath

Rides over the waters with wreck and death:

He ’ll say there ’s more of fear and pain

On the plague-ridden earth than the storm-lash’d main.

’T would be as wise to spend thy power

In trying to lure the bee from the flower,

The lark from the sky, or the worm from the grave,

As in weaning the Sea-Child from the wave.