The Gardens of the Sea

By George Sterling

Beneath the ocean's sapphire lid
    We gazed far down, and who had dreamed,
    Till pure and cold its treasures gleamed,
What lucent jewels there lay hid?—

Opal and jacinth, orb and shell,
    Calice and filament of jade,
    And fonts of malachite inlaid
With lotus and with asphodel,—

Red sparks that give the dolphin pause,
    Lamps of the ocean-elf, and gems
    Long lost from crystal diadems,
And veiled in shrouds of glowing gauze.

Below, the sifted sunlight passed
    To twilight, where the azure blaze
    Of scentless flowers from the haze
About their dim pavilions cast

Betrayed what seemed forgotten pearls,
    As shimmering weeds alert with light
    Enticed the half-reluctant sight
To caverns where the sea-kelp swirls.

Splendid and chill those gardens shone,
    Where sound is not, and tides are winds,—
    Where, fugitive, the naiad finds
Eternal autumn, hushed and lone;

Till one had said that in her bow'rs
    Where mixt the nacres of the dawn,
    That thence the sunset's dyes were drawn,
And there the rainbow sank its tow'rs.

Where gorgeous flowers of chrysoprase
    In songless meadows bared their blooms,
    The deep's unweariable looms
With shifting splendors lured the gaze.

And zoned on iridescent sands,
    Pellucid glories came and went—
    Silver and scarlet madly blent
In living stars and blazoned bands.

Hydras of emerald and blue
    Were part of swaying tapestries
    Whose woof from ivies of the seas
Stole each inquietude of hue.

And in those royal halls lay lost
    The oriflammes and golden oars
    Of argosies from lyric shores—
'Mid glimmering crowns and croziers tost.

And purple poppies vespertine
    Glowed on the weird and sunken ledge,
    Beyond whose rich, vermillion edge
Rose tentacles from shapes unseen—

Undulant bronze and glossy toils
    That shuddered in the lustrous tide
    And forms in restless crimson dyed
That caught the light in stealthy coils. . . .

Far down we gazed, nor dared to dream
    What final sorceries would be
    When in those gardens of the sea
The lilies of the moon should gleam.

Inspired by his trip to Catalina Island, off the coast of Southern California

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