Then the howling gale o’er
the billows rushed,
And trampled the sea in its march of wrath;
From stooping clouds the red lightnings gushed,
And thunders moved in their blazing path.
’Twas a fearful night, but my shadowy guide
Had a voice of glee as we rode on the gale,
For we saw afar a ship on the tide,
With a bounding course and a fearless sail.
In darkness it came, like a storm-sent bird,
But another ship it met on the wave:
A shock—a shout—but no more we heard,
For they both went down to their ocean-grave!
We paused on the misty wing of the storm,
As a ruddy flash lit the face of the deep,
And far in its bosom full many a form
Was swinging down to its silent sleep.
Another flash! and they seemed to rest,
In scattered groups, on the floor of the tide:
The lover and loved, they were breast to breast,
The mother and babe, they were side by side.
The leaping waves clapped their hands in joy,
And gleams of gold with the waters flowed,
But the peace of the sleepers knew no alloy,
For all was hushed in their lone abode!
On, on, like midnight visions,
The storm above, and the surge below,
And shrieking forms swept by on the blast,
Like demons speeding on errands of woe.
My spirit sank, for aloft in the cloud,
A Star-set Flag on the whirlwind flew,
And I knew that the billow must be the shroud
Of the noble ship and her gallant crew.
Her side was striped with a belt of white,
And a dozen guns from each battery frowned,
But the lightning came in a sheet of flame,[B]
And the towering sails in its folds were wound.
Vain, vain was the shout, that in battle rout,
Had rung as a knell in the ear of the foe,
For the bursting deck was heaved from the wreck,
And the sky was bathed in the awful glow!
The ocean shook to its oozy bed,
As the swelling sound to the canopy went,
And the splintered fires like meteors shed
Their light o’er the tossing element.
A moment they gleamed, then sank in the foam,
And darkness swept over the gorgeous glare—
They lighted the mariners down to their home,
And left them all sleeping in stillness there!
The storm is hushed, and my
vision is o’er,
The Surf Sprite changed to a foamy wreath,
The night is deepened along the shore,
And I thread my way o’er the dusky heath.
But often again I shall go to that cliff,
And seek for her form on the flashing tide,
For I know she will come in her airy skiff,
And over the sea we shall swiftly ride!