Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Chambered Nautilus

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr (1809-1894)

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sail the unshadowed main,—
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,—
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed horn;
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

2 comments:

dan said...

from Immortal Poems of the English Language.

my bro Ethan mentioned he'd read some about Oliver Wendell Holmes. I wasn't familiar with any of his poems until reading this.

I wasn't aware of this but Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr, the physician/writer, was not the same person as (his son) the Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

potcfansyd said...

It's amazing that once you read deeper into the poem such an amazing meaning can come out of it. I was genuinlly inspired after this poem.