Literary Places

The Sea-bird’s Cry by R. S. Hawker

‘Tis harsh to hear, from ledge or peak,
The cruel cormorant’s tuneless shriek;
Fierce songs they chant, in pool or cave,
Dark wanderers of the western wave.
Here will the listening landsman pray
For memory’s music, far away;
Soft throats that nestling with the rose,
Soothe the glad rivulet as it flows.

Cease, stranger! cease that fruitless word,
Give eve’s hush’d bough to woodland bird:
Let the winged minstrel’s valley-note
‘Mid flowers and fragrance pause and float.
Here must the echoing beak prevail,
To pierce the storm and cleave the gale;
To call, when warring tides shall foam,
The fledgling of the waters home.

Wild things are here, of sea and land,
Stern surges and a haughty strand;
Sea-monsters haunt yon cavern’d lair,
The mermaid wrings her briny hair.
That cry, those sullen accents sound
Like native echoes of the ground.
Lo! He did all things well Who gave
The sea-bird’s voice to such a wave.

August 27, 1835

First printed in Records of the Western Shore, Second Series, 1836, then, with a few alterations, in The Cornish Ballads, 1869. This version from Cornish Ballads and Other Poems, by R. S. Hawker, Vicar of Morwenstow, edited with an introduction by Charles Edward Byles, 1904.