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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘The Marshes of Glynn’

By Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

(See full text.)

OH, what is abroad in the marsh and the terminal sea?

Somehow my soul seems suddenly free

From the weighing of fate and the sad discussion of sin,

By the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn.

Ye marshes, how candid and simple and nothing-withholding and free

Ye publish yourselves to the sky and offer yourselves to the sea!

Tolerant plains, that suffer the sea and the rains and the sun,

Ye spread and span like the catholic man who hath mightily won

God out of knowledge, and good out of infinite pain,

And sight out of blindness, and purity out of a stain.

As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,

Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God;

I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies

In the freedom that fills all the space ’twixt the marsh and the skies:

By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod

I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God:

Oh, like to the greatness of God is the greatness within

The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.

And the sea lends large, as the marsh; lo, out of his plenty the sea

Pours fast; full soon the time of the flood-tide must be:

Look how the grace of the sea doth go

About and about through the intricate channels that flow

Here and there,


Till his waters have flooded the uttermost creeks and the low-lying lanes,

And the marsh is meshed with a million veins,

That like as with rosy and silvery essences flow

In the rose-and-silver evening glow.

Farewell, my lord Sun!

The creeks overflow; a thousand rivulets run

’Twixt the roots of the sod; the blades of the marsh-grass stir:

Passeth a hurrying sound of wings that westward whirr;

Passeth, and all is still; and the currents cease to run;

And the sea and the marsh are one.

How still the plains of the waters be!

The tide is in his ecstasy.

The tide is at his highest height;

And it is night.

And now from the Vast of the Lord will the waters of sleep

Roll in on the souls of men;

But who will reveal to our waking ken

The forms that swim and the shapes that creep

Under the waters of sleep?

And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in

On the length and the breadth of the marvelous marshes of Glynn.