Published on Academy of American Poets (

Through Time and Bitter Distance

Unknown to you, I walk the cheerless shore. 
   The cutting blast, the hurl of biting brine, 
May freeze, and still, and bind the waves at war, 
   Ere you will ever know, O! Heart of mine, 
That I have sought, reflected in the blue 
    Of these sea depths, some shadow of your eyes; 
Have hoped the laughing waves would sing of you, 
   But this is all my starving sight descries—

Far out at sea a sail 
    Bends to the freshening breeze, 
Yields to the rising gale, 
    That sweeps the seas; 

Yields, as a bird wind-tossed, 
    To saltish waves that fling 
Their spray, whose rime and frost
    Like crystals cling

To canvas, mast and spar, 
   Till, gleaming like a gem, 
She sinks beyond the far
   Horizon’s hem. 

Lost to my longing sight, 
    And nothing left to me
Save an oncoming night,—
    An empty sea.


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

"For this title the author is indebted to Mr. Charles G. D. Roberts. It occurs in his sonnet, “Rain.”

E. Pauline Johnson

“Through Time and Bitter Distance” appeared in Flint and Feather (Musson Book Co., 1912).


E. Pauline Johnson

Emily Pauline Johnson, who also published under her Mohawk name Tekahionwake, was born on March 10, 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West. A poet, artist, and performer, she is the author of three collections of poetry: The White Wampum (Copp Clark Co., 1895), Canadian Born (G. N. Morang, 1903) and Flint and Feather (Musson Book Co., 1912). She died on March 7, 1913 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Date Published: 1912-01-01

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