Sea-Mews In Winter Time

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I walked beside a dark gray sea.
  And said, "O world, how cold thou art!
Thou poor white world, I pity thee,
  For joy and warmth from thee depart.

"Yon rising wave licks off the snow,
  Winds on the crag each other chase,
In little powdery whirls they blow
  The misty fragments down its face.

"The sea is cold, and dark its rim,
  Winter sits cowering on the wold,
And I beside this watery brim,
  Am also lonely, also cold."

I spoke, and drew toward a rock,
  Where many mews made twittering sweet;
Their wings upreared, the clustering flock
  Did pat the sea-grass with their feet.

A rock but half submerged, the sea
  Ran up and washed it while they fed;
Their fond and foolish ecstasy
  A wondering in my fancy bred.

Joy companied with every cry,
  Joy in their food, in that keen wind,
That heaving sea, that shaded sky,
  And in themselves, and in their kind.

The phantoms of the deep at play!
  What idless graced the twittering things;
Luxurious paddlings in the spray,
  And delicate lifting up of wings.

Then all at once a flight, and fast
  The lovely crowd flew out to sea;
If mine own life had been recast,
  Earth had not looked more changed to me.

"Where is the cold? Yon clouded skies
  Have only dropt their curtains low
To shade the old mother where she lies
  Sleeping a little, 'neath the snow.

"The cold is not in crag, nor scar,
  Not in the snows that lap the lea,
Not in yon wings that beat afar,
  Delighting, on the crested sea;

"No, nor in yon exultant wind
  That shakes the oak and bends the pine.
Look near, look in, and thou shalt find
  No sense of cold, fond fool, but thine!"

With that I felt the gloom depart,
  And thoughts within me did unfold,
Whose sunshine warmed me to the heart,--
  I walked in joy, and was not cold.

© Jean Ingelow