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

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935)

The Rock and the Sea


I AM the Rock, presumptuous Sea!

I am set to encounter thee.

Angry and loud, or gentle and still,

I am set here to limit thy power, and I will—

I am the Rock!

I am the Rock. From age to age

I scorn thy fury and dare thy rage,

Scarred by frost and worn by time,

Brown with weed and green with slime,

Thou mayst drench and defile me and spit in my face,

But while I am here thou keep’st thy place!

I am the Rock!

I am the Rock, beguiling Sea!

I know thou art fair as fair can be,

With golden glitter and silver sheen,

And bosom of blue and garments of green.

Thou mayst pat my cheek with baby hands,

And lap my feet in diamond sands,

And play before me as children play;

But plead as thou wilt, I bar the way!

I am the Rock!

I am the Rock. Black midnight falls;

The terrible breakers rise like walls;

With curling lips and gleaming teeth

They plunge and tear at my bones beneath.

Year upon year they grind and beat

In storms of thunder and storms of sleet—

Grind and beat and wrestle and tear,

But the rock they beat on is always there!

I am the Rock!


I am the Sea. I hold the land

As one holds an apple in his hand.

Hold it fast with sleepless eyes,

Watching the continents sink and rise.

Out of my bosom the mountains grow,

Back to its depths they crumble slow:

The earth is a helpless child to me—

I am the Sea!

I am the Sea. When I draw back

Blossom and verdure follow my track,

And the land I leave grows proud and fair,

For the wonderful race of man is there;

And the winds of heaven wail and cry

While the nations rise and reign and die—

Living and dying in folly and pain,

While the laws of the universe thunder in vain.

What is the folly of man to me?

I am the Sea!

I am the Sea. The earth I sway;

Granite to me is potter’s clay;

Under the touch of my careless waves

It rises in turrets and sinks in caves;

The iron cliffs that edge the land

I grind to pebbles and sift to sand,

And beach-grass bloweth and children play

In what were the rocks of yesterday;

It is but a moment of sport to me—

I am the Sea!

I am the Sea. In my bosom deep

Wealth and Wonder and Beauty sleep;

Wealth and Wonder and Beauty rise

In changing splendor of sunset skies,

And comfort the earth with rains and snows

Till waves the harvest and laughs the rose.

Flower and forest and child of breath

With me have life—without me, death.

What if the ships go down in me?—

I am the Sea!