The Tides

Author: William Cullen Bryant  | Date: 1864


The moon is at her full, and, riding high,

Floods the calm fields with light;

The airs that hover in the summer-sky

Are all asleep to-night.

There comes no voice from the great woodlands round

That murmured all the day;

Beneath the shadow of their boughs the ground

Is not more still than they.

But ever heaves and moans the restless Deep;

His rising tides I hear,

Afar I see the glimmering billows leap;

I see them breaking near.

Each wave springs upward, climbing toward the fair

Pure light that sits on high-

Springs eagerly, and faintly sinks, to where

The mother-waters lie.

Upward again it swells; the moonbeams show

Again its glimmering crest;

Again it feels the fatal weight below,

And sinks, but not to rest.

Again and yet again; until the Deep

Recalls his brood of waves;

And, with a sullen moan, abashed, they creep

Back to his inner caves.

Brief respite! they shall rush from that recess

With noise and tumult soon,

And fling themselves, with unavailing stress,

Up toward the placid moon.

O restless Sea, that, in thy prison here,

Dost struggle and complain;

Through the slow centuries yearning to be near

To that fair orb in vain;

The glorious source of light and heat must warm

Thy billows from on high,

And change them to the cloudy trains that form

The curtain of the sky.

Then only may they leave the waste of brine

In which they welter here,

And rise above the hills of earth, and shine

In a serener sphere.

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Chicago: William Cullen Bryant, The Tides Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2021,

MLA: Bryant, William Cullen. The Tides, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2021.

Harvard: Bryant, WC, The Tides. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2021, from