Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant

CHRIST IN THE TEMPEST.

MIDNIGHT was on the mighty deep,
And darkness filled the boundless sky,
While mid the raging wind was heard
The sea-bird's mournful cry;
For tempest clouds were mustering wrath
Across the seaman's trackless path.
It came at length: one fearful gust
Rent from the mast the shivering sail,
And drove the helpless bark along,
The plaything of the gale,
While fearfully the lightning's glare
Fell on the pale brows gather'd there.
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But there was one o'er whose bright face
Unmark'd the livid lightnings flash'd;
And on whose stirless, prostrate form,
Unfelt the sea-spray dash'd;
For mid the tempest fierce and wild,
He slumber'd like a wearied child.
Oh! who could look upon that face,
And feel the sting of coward fear?
Though hell's fierce demons raged around,
Yet heaven itself was here;
For who that glorious brow could see,
Nor own a present Deity?
With hurried fear they press around
The lowly Saviour's humble bed,
As if his very touch had power
To shield their souls from dread;
While cradled on the raging deep,
He lay in calm and tranquil sleep.
Vainly they struggled with their fears,
But wilder still the tempest woke,
Till from their full and o'erfraught hearts
The voice of terror broke:
"Behold! we sink beneath the wave,
We perish, Lord! but thou canst save."
Slowly he rose; and mild rebuke
Shone in his soft and heaven-lit eye:
"Oh ye of little faith," he cried,
"Is not your master nigh?
Is not your hope of succour just?
Why know ye not in whom ye trust?"
He turn'd away, and conscious power
Dilated his majestic form,
As o'er the boiling sea he bent,
The ruler of the storm;
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Earth to its centre felt the thrill,
As low he murmur'd, "Peace! Be still?"
Hark to the burst of meeting waves,
The roaring of the angry sea!
A moment more, and all is hush'd
In deep tranquillity;
While not a breeze is near to break
The mirror'd surface of the lake.
Then on the stricken hearts of all
Fell anxious doubt and holy awe,
As timidly they gazed on him
Whose will was nature's law:
"What man is this," they cry, "whose word
E'en by the raging sea is heard?"