Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ISLAND, by AUDREY ALEXANDRA BROWN

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THE ISLAND, by            
First Line: Eastward lies the island
Last Line: When the grey seals come up from the sea?
Subject(s): Islands; Sea; Seals (Animals); Solitude; Ocean; Loneliness

Eastward lies the Island,
In a bay of raw sapphire streaked with shoals;
The tide rolls,
Beating itself to pieces in the jaws
Of broken-fanged reefs as white as bone;
Spray splinters on stone
Of the sharply-rising waterless soilless highland:
Such is the Island.

There no man lives nor may, but there each year
The seals heavily
Drag themselves up the smooth rock from the sea,
Their soft eyes confident, their hides sleek—
Coming without haste, without fear,
To the citadel they seek.
Here, these unbefriending wastes among,
Yearly are born their young:
Here and thus
Yearly however temporarily
The solitude is populous
With the stupid gentle people of the sea.

Along the road that rounds the bay is a slope;
Halfway down the slope to the sea is a house—
Built so cunningly into the slope-stair,
Screened so darkly by fir and the fir boughs,
You might pass and pass and never know it was there.
In that house there lives a lady
Whose glassed wall looks steadfastly
Down the wild fall of rock to the sea
And the roaring reef and the spume flying
And ever and evermore
About the shore
The gulls crying, the gulls wheeling and crying.

I have seen her once: she was strange and beautiful—tall,
With milk-white hair and a dead-white face; she went
Sumptuous in green brocade and golden roses:
I looked, I was not content
To look and pass; my heart said, "Winter closes—
What will you do, O lady, when outside
Is only the far country white and wide
And the listening firs at the door, and ceaselessly
The cannonading sea?"

What will you do, O lady? Night and day
The sound of the mad surf that never lulls
Is in your heart, and the cry of the mad gulls.
Do they say true, the gossips, when they say
That a white seal haunts the Island
When the grey seals come up from the sea?

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