Context: This brief poem begins and ends with the ceaseless breaking of the waves on the rocky shore, suggesting the relentless flow of time and events, which proceeds regardless of human feelings. The poet mourns the loss of someone he had loved; it is a grief he must bear alone: the fisherman's children and the young sailor are carefree; the ships sail by serenely. Only in his heart does the painful realization live that "the tender grace of a day that is dead/ Will never come back," for the person that gave the day its grace is dead.
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!