“Just mark that schooner
westward far at sea—
’Tis but an hour ago
When she was lying hoggish at the quay,
And men ran to and fro
And tugged, and stamped, and shoved, and pushed, and swore.
And ever an anon, with crapulous glee,
Grinned homage to viragoes on the shore.
“So to the jetty gradual
she was hauled:
Then one the tiller took,
And chewed, and spat upon his hand, and bawled;
And one the canvas shook
Forth like a mouldy bat; and one, with nods
And smiles, lay on the bowsprit end, and called
And cursed the Harbour-master by his gods.
“And rotten from the
gunwale to the keel,
Rat riddled, bilge bestank,
Slime-slobbered, horrible, I saw her reel
And drag her oozy flank,
And sprawl among the deft young waves, that laughed
And leapt, and turned in many a sportive wheel
As she thumped onward with her lumbering draught.
“And now, behold! a
shadow of repose
Upon a line of gray
She sleeps, that transverse cuts the evening rose,
She sleeps and dreams away,
Soft blended in a unity of rest
All jars, and strifes obscene, and turbulent throes
’Neath the broad benediction of the West—
“Sleeps; and methinks
she changes as she sleeps,
And dies, and is a spirit pure;
Lo! on her deck, an angel pilot keeps
His lonely watch secure;
And at the entrance of Heaven’s dockyard waits
Till from night’s leash the fine-breathed morning leaps
And that strong hand within unbars the gates.”
It is very far from being the finest poem in the volume. It has not the noble humanity of Catherine Kinrade—and if this be not a great poem I know nothing about poetry—nor the rapture of Jessie, nor the awful pathos of Mater Dolorosa, nor the gentle pathos of Aber Stations, nor the fine religious feeling of Planting and Disguises. But it came so pat to the occasion, and used the occasion so deftly to take hold of one’s sympathy, that these other poems were read in the very mood that, I am sure, their author would have asked for them. One has not often such luck in reading—“Never the time and the place and the author all together,” if I may do this violence to Browning’s line. Yet I trust that in any mood I should have had the sense to pay its meed of admiration to this volume.
Now, having carefully read the opinions of some half-a-dozen reviewers upon it, I can only wonder and leave the question to my reader, warning him by no means to miss Mater Dalorosa and Catherine Kinrade. If he remain cold to these two poems, then I shall still preserve my own opinion.