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Oldport Days Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Oldport In Winter

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High winds bring a different scene. Sometimes I fancy that in winter, with less visible life upon the surface of the water, and less of unseen animal life below it, there is yet more that seems like vital force in the individual particles of waves. Each separate drop appears more charged with desperate and determined life. The lines of surf run into each other more brokenly, and with less steady roll. The low sun, too, lends a weird and jagged shadow to gallop in before the crest of each advancing wave, and sometimes there is a second crest on the shoulders of the first, as if there were more than could be contained in a single curve. Greens and purples are called forth to replace the prevailing blue. Far out at sea, great separate mounds of water rear themselves, as if to overlook the tossing plain. Sometimes these move onward and subside with their green hue still unbroken, and again they curve into detached hillocks of foam, white, multitudinous, side by side, not ridged, but moving on like a mob of white horses, neck overarching neck, breast crowded against breast.

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Across those tumultuous waves I like to watch, after sunset, the revolving light; there is something about it so delicate and human. It seems to bud or bubble out of the low, dark horizon; a moment, and it is not, and then another moment, and it is. With one throb the tremulous light is born; with another throb it has reached its full size, and looks at you, coy and defiant; and almost in that instant it is utterly gone. You cannot conceive yourself to be watching something which merely turns on an axis; but it seems suddenly to expand, a flower of light, or to close, as if soft petals of darkness clasped it in. During its moments of absence, the eye cannot quite keep the memory of its precise position, and it often appears a hair-breadth to the right or left of the expected spot. This enhances the elfish and fantastic look, and so the pretty game goes on, with flickering surprises, every night and all night long. But the illusion of the seasons is just as oquettish; and when next summer comes to us, with its blossoms and its joys, it will dawn as softly out of the darkness and as softly give place to winter once more.

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Oldport Days
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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