Charlotte Smith

Here you will find the Long Poem Beachy Head of poet Charlotte Smith

Beachy Head

ON thy stupendous summit, rock sublime ! 
That o'er the channel rear'd, half way at sea 
The mariner at early morning hails, 
I would recline; while Fancy should go forth, 
And represent the strange and awful hour 
Of vast concussion; when the Omnipotent 
Stretch'd forth his arm, and rent the solid hills, 
Bidding the impetuous main flood rush between 

The rifted shores, and from the continent 
Eternally divided this green isle. 
Imperial lord of the high southern coast ! 
From thy projecting head-land I would mark 
Far in the east the shades of night disperse, 
Melting and thinned, as from the dark blue wave 
Emerging, brilliant rays of arrowy light 
Dart from the horizon; when the glorious sun 
Just lifts above it his resplendent orb. 
Advances now, with feathery silver touched, 
The rippling tide of flood; glisten the sands, 
While, inmates of the chalky clefts that scar 
Thy sides precipitous, with shrill harsh cry, 
Their white wings glancing in the level beam, 
The terns, and gulls, and tarrocks, seek their food, 
And thy rough hollows echo to the voice 

Of the gray choughs, and ever restless daws, 
With clamour, not unlike the chiding hounds, 
While the lone shepherd, and his baying dog, 
Drive to thy turfy crest his bleating flock. 
The high meridian of the day is past, 
And Ocean now, reflecting the calm Heaven, 
Is of cerulean hue; and murmurs low 
The tide of ebb, upon the level sands. 
The sloop, her angular canvas shifting still, 
Catches the light and variable airs 
That but a little crisp the summer sea. 
Dimpling its tranquil surface. 
Afar off, 
And just emerging from the arch immense 

Where seem to part the elements, a fleet 
Of fishing vessels stretch their lesser sails; 
While more remote, and like a dubious spot 
Just hanging in the horizon, laden deep, 
The ship of commerce richly freighted, makes 
Her slower progress, on her distant voyage, 
Bound to the orient climates, where the sun 
Matures the spice within its odorous shell, 
And, rivalling the gray worm's filmy toil, 
Bursts from its pod the vegetable down; 
Which in long turban'd wreaths, from torrid heat 
Defends the brows of Asia's countless casts. 
There the Earth hides within her glowing breast 
The beamy adamant, and the round pearl 
Enchased in rugged covering; which the slave, 
With perilous and breathless toil, tears off 

From the rough sea-rock, deep beneath the waves. 
These are the toys of Nature; and her sport 
Of little estimate in Reason's eye: 
And they who reason, with abhorrence see 
Man, for such gaudes and baubles, violate 
The sacred freedom of his fellow man­ 
Erroneous estimate ! As Heaven's pure air, 
Fresh as it blows on this aërial height, 
Or sound of seas upon the stony strand, 
Or inland, the gay harmony of birds, 
And winds that wander in the leafy woods; 
Are to the unadulterate taste more worth 
Than the elaborate harmony, brought out 
From fretted stop, or modulated airs 
Of vocal science.­So the brightest gems, 
Glancing resplendent on the regal crown, 

Or trembling in the high born beauty's ear, 
Are poor and paltry, to the lovely light 
Of the fair star, that as the day declines, 
Attendant on her queen, the crescent moon, 
Bathes her bright tresses in the eastern wave. 
For now the sun is verging to the sea, 
And as he westward sinks, the floating clouds 
Suspended, move upon the evening gale, 
And gathering round his orb, as if to shade 
The insufferable brightness, they resign 
Their gauzy whiteness; and more warm'd, assume 
All hues of purple. There, transparent gold 
Mingles with ruby tints, and sapphire gleams, 
And colours, such as Nature through her works 
Shews only in the ethereal canopy. 
Thither aspiring Fancy fondly soars, 

Wandering sublime thro' visionary vales, 
Where bright pavilions rise, and trophies, fann'd 
By airs celestial; and adorn'd with wreaths 
Of flowers that bloom amid elysian bowers. 
Now bright, and brighter still the colours glow, 
Till half the lustrous orb within the flood 
Seems to retire: the flood reflecting still 
Its splendor, and in mimic glory drest; 
Till the last ray shot upward, fires the clouds 
With blazing crimson; then in paler light, 
Long lines of tenderer radiance, lingering yield 
To partial darkness; and on the opposing side 
The early moon distinctly rising, throws 
Her pearly brilliance on the trembling tide. 

The fishermen, who at set seasons pass 
Many a league off at sea their toiling night, 
Now hail their comrades, from their daily task 
Returning; and make ready for their own, 
With the night tide commencing:­The night tide 
Bears a dark vessel on, whose hull and sails 
Mark her a coaster from