The Fog-Sea

by George Sterling (1869–1926)


The morning is ten thousand miles away.
    The winter night surrounds me, vast and cold,
    Without a star.  The voiceless fog is rolled
From ocean-levels desolate and grey;
But over all the floods of moonlight lay
    A glory on those billows that enfold
    The muffled sea and forest.  Gaunt and old,
The dripping redwoods wait the distant day.

Unknown, above, what silver-dripping waves
    Break slowly on the purple reefs of night!
        What radiant foam ascends from shadowy
Or sinks unechoing to soundless caves!
        No whisper is upon those tides of light,
        Setting in silence toward the risen stars.


O phantom sea, pale spirit of unrest!
    There is no thunder where your billows break.
    Morning shall be your strand; your waters make
An island of the mountain-top, whose crest
Is lonely on the ocean of your breast.
    No sail is there save what our visions take
    Of mist and moonlight, on whose ghostly wake
Our dreams go forth unuttered to the West.

The splendour on your tides is high and far,
    Seen by the mind alone, whose wings can sweep
    On wilder glories and a vaster deep.
        Chill are your gulfs, O sea without a song!
Hiding the heavens from man, man from the star,
        To which your parent sea endures as long.

Moult, Thomas, ed.  The Best Poems of 1923.  (London:  Jonathan Cape, Ltd., 1924).

The table of contents indicates that the poem first appeared in the February number of Lyric West (Los Angeles).  The spelling of “splendour” is no doubt due to the British publisher.

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