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Minot's Ledge

by Fitz-James O'Brien

Like spectral hounds across the sky,
The white clouds scud before the storm;
And naked in the howling night
The red-eyed lighthouse lifts its form.
The waves with slippery fingers clutch
The massive tower, and climb and fall,
And, muttering, growl with baffled rage
Their curses on the sturdy wall.

Up in the lonely tower he sits,
The keeper of the crimson light:
Silent and awe-struck does he hear
The imprecations of the night.
The white spray beats against the panes
Like some wet ghost that down the air
Is hunted by a troop of fiends,
And seeks a shelter anywhere.

He prays aloud, the lonely man,
For every soul that night at sea,
But more than all for that brave boy
Who used to gayly climb his knee,—
Young Charlie, with his chestnut hair,
And hazel eyes, and laughing lip.
"May Heaven look down," the old man cries.
"Upon my son, and on his ship!"

While thus with pious heart he prays,
Far in the distance sounds a boom:
He pauses; and again there rings
That sullen thunder through the room.
A ship upon the shoals to-night!
She cannot hold for one half hour;
But clear the ropes and grappling hooks,
And trust in the Almighty Power!

On the drenched gallery he stands,
Striving to pierce the solid night:
Across the sea the red eye throws
A steady crimson wake of light;
And, where it falls upon the waves,
He sees a human head float by,
With long drenched curls of chestnut hair,
And wild but fearless hazel eye.

Out with the hooks! One mighty fling!
Adown the wind the long rope curls.
Oh! will it catch? Ah, dread suspense!
While the wild ocean wilder whirls.
A steady pull; it tightens now:
Oh! his old heart will burst with joy,
As on the slippery rocks he pulls
The breathing body of his boy.

Still sweep the specters through the sky;
Still scud the clouds before the storm;
Still naked in the howling night
The red-eyed lighthouse lifts its form.
Without, the world is wild with rage;
Unkenneled demons are abroad;
But with the father and the son
Within, there is the peace of God.

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