From collision never shrinking,
Drive what may through darksome smother;
Saturate, but never sinking,
Fatal only to the other!
Deadlier than the sunken reef
Since still the snare it shifteth,
Torpid in dumb ambuscade
Waylayingly it drifteth.
O, the sailors—O, the sails!
O, the lost crews never heard of!
Well the harp of Ariel wails
Thought that tongue can tell no word of!
Lonesome on earth’s loneliest deep,
Sailor! who dost thy vigil keep—
Off the Cape of Storms dost musing sweep
Over monstrous waves that curl and comb;
Of thee we think when here from brink
We blow the mead in bubbling foam.
Of thee we think, in a ring we link;
To the shearer of ocean’s fleece we drink,
And the Meteor rolling home.
Look, the raft, a signal flying,
None upon the lashed spars lying,
Quick or dead.
Cries the sea-fowl, hovering over,
“Crew, the crew?”
And the billow, reckless, rover,
Yon black man-of-war-hawk that wheels in
O’er the black ship’s white sky-s’l, sunned
cloud to the sight,
Have we low-flyers wings to ascend to his
No arrow can reach him; nor thought can
To the placid supreme in the sweep of his
The Charles-and-Emma seaward sped,
(Named from the carven pair at prow,)
He so smart, and a curly head,
She tricked forth as a bride knows how:
Pretty stem for the port, I trow!
But iron-rust and alum-spray
And chafing gear, and sun and dew
Vexed this lad and lassie gay,
Tears in their eyes, salt tears nor few;
And the hug relaxed with the failing glue.
But came in end a dismal night,
With creaking beams and ribs that groan,
A black lee-shore and waters white:
Dropped on the reef, the pair lie prone:
O, the breakers dance, but the winds they
Strenuous need that head-wind be
From purposed voyage that drives at last
The ship, sharp-braced and dogged still,
Beating up against the blast.
Brigs that figs for market gather,
Homeward-bound upon the stretch,
Encounter oft this uglier weather
Yet in end their port they fetch.
Mark yon craft from sunny Smyrna
Glazed with ice in Boston Bay;
Out they toss the fig-drums cheerly,
Livelier for the frosty ray.
What if sleet off-shore assailed her,
What though ice yet plate her yards;
In wintry port not less she renders
Summer’s gift with warm regards!