I drifted (or I seemed to) in a boat
Upon the surface of a shoreless sea
Whereon no ship nor anything did float,
Save only the frail bark supporting me;
And that-it was so shadowy-seemed to be
Almost from out the very vapors wrought
Of the great ocean underneath its keel;
And all that blue profound appeared as naught
But thicker sky, translucent to reveal,
Miles down, whatever through its spaces glided,
Or at the bottom traveled or abided.
Great cities there I saw-of rich and poor,
The palace and the hovel; mountains, vales,
Forest and field, the desert and the moor,
Tombs of the good and wise who'd lived in jails,
And seas of denser fluid, white with sails
Pushed at by currents moving here and there
And sensible to sight above the flat
Of that opaquer deep. Ah, strange and fair
The nether world that I was gazing at
With beating heart from that exalted level,
And-lest I founder-trembling like the devil!
The cities all were populous: men swarmed
In public places-chattered, laughed and wept;
And savages their shining bodies warmed
At fires in primal woods. The wild beast leapt
Upon its prey and slew it as it slept.
Armies went forth to battle on the plain
So far, far down in that unfathomed deep
The living seemed as silent as the slain,
Nor even the widows could be heard to weep.
One might have thought their shaking was but laughter;
And, truly, most were married shortly after.
Above the wreckage of that silent fray
Strange fishes swam in circles, round and round
Black, double-finned; and once a little way
A bubble rose and burst without a sound
And a man tumbled out upon the ground.
Lord! 'twas an eerie thing to drift apace
On that pellucid sea, beneath black skies
And o'er the heads of an undrowning race;
And when I woke I said-to her surprise
Who came with chocolate, for me to drink it:
'The atmosphere is deeper than you think it.'