No pompous tomb shall ever rise
Above thy lonely, sun-bleached frame;
No epitaph of well-turned lies
Shall be inscribed beneath thy name;
No bells for thee a dirge shall ring,
No choir beside thy grave shall sing,
Yet hast thou perished like a king!
Were you ever told the legend old
Of the birth of storms at sea?
You should hear the tale in a Channel gale,
As happened once to me,
On a fearful night off Fastnet Light,
With Ireland on our lee.
In the good old days, which poets praise
As the best that man hath seen,
The storm-king’s hand might smite the land,
But the sea remained serene;
Blow east, blow west, its sun-kissed breast
Kept ever its tranquil sheen.
Not a single trace came o’er its face
Of the storms that raged elsewhere;
No misty screen e’er crept between
The sun and its image there;
And its depths at night were gemmed with light
By stars in the crystal air.
The fisherman laughed in his little craft,
If a landsman felt alarm,
For never did gale a ship assail,
Or a sailor suffer harm;
There was nothing to fear, for the skies were clear,
And the ocean always calm.
But on the shore, where more and more
The human race increased,
There were cold and heat, and snow and sleet,
And troubles never ceased;
For wind and rain beat down the grain,
And the plague slew man and beast.
And even worse was the moral curse,
That came like a deadly blight
Through men who seized whate’er they pleased,
On the plea that might makes right,
Till the fatal seed of selfish greed
Made life a bitter fight.
Hence many sighed, as they watched the tide
Glide out to the sunset sea,
And longed to go with its gentle flow
To where they hoped might be
A realm of peace, where sorrows cease,
And souls from pain are free.
At last they said,—“We were better
Than endure this anguish more;
Let us seek relief from care and grief
Far out from the storm-swept shore;
The sea can bring no sadder thing
Than the life we lived before.”
So a ship was framed, which they fondly named
“The Peace of the Human Mind,”
And the weary band soon left the land
And its ceaseless strife behind;
But unattained the goal remained
They had so longed to find.
For the souls that came were quite the same
As they were before they sailed;
And, as pride and hate did not abate,
The hope of the voyagers failed;
And, facing alone the great Unknown,
The bravest spirits quailed.
Meanwhile the ship began to dip,
And labored to and fro,
For the sea, though fair, could no more bear
This load of human woe;
And at last the boat, with all afloat,
Sank helplessly below.