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Lighthouse Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Lighthouse by Katharine Lee Bates
  2. The Lighthouse Keeper by Helen Emma Maring
  3. Minot's Ledge by Fitz-James O'Brien
  4. The Light-houses by Lucy Larcom
  5. The Lighthouse by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  6. Shanid Castle by Gerald Griffin
  7. On the Lighthouse at Antibes by Mathilde Blind
  8. The Inchcape Rock by Robert Southey

  1. The Lighthouse

    by Katharine Lee Bates

    In seas far north, day after day
    We leaned upon the rail, engrossed
    In frolic fin and jewel spray
    And crystal headlands of the coast.

    Those beauties held so long in gaze
    Have melted from my mind like snow,
    But still I see through rifted haze
    The wizard tower and portico

    That flashed one instant, white and whist,
    A grace too exquisite to keep,
    A picture springing from the mist
    As a dream comes shining out of sleep.

    I do not know what name he wrote,
    Our captain, in his good ship's log,
    For that sea-wraith, —how men denote
    Our fleeting phantom of the fog;

    But yet across the world I thrill
    With rapture of that ivory gleam,
    That sudden shaft of glory, till
    It wears the wonder of a dream.

  2. The Lighthouse Keeper

    by Helen Emma Maring

    In the lonely twilight hour,
    Looking forth from his old tower,
    When the sunset glow has faded in the west,
    Then he sees the distant things
    Steeped in purple of the kings,
    While the breezes come to chill at night's behest.
    Then the color from the air
    Sinks to—God but knows just where,
    And the interval of deepened twilight grows;
    But the gleaming streaks of light
    From his tower of the night
    Send their word to every ship that comes or goes.

  3. 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.

  4. The Light-houses

    by Lucy Larcom

    Baker’s Island

    Two pale sisters, all alone,
    On an island bleak and bare,
    Listening to the breakers’ moan,
    Shivering in the chilly air;
    Looking inland towards a hill,
    On whose top one aged tree
    Wrestles with the storm-wind’s will,
    Rushing, wrathful, from the sea.

    Two dim ghosts at dusk they seem,
    Side by side, so white and tall,
    Sending one long, hopeless gleam
    Down the horizon’s darkened wall.
    Spectres, strayed from plank or spar,
    With a tale none lives to tell,
    Grazing at the town afar,
    Where unconscious widows dwell.

    Two white angels of the sea,
    Guiding wave-worn wanderers home;
    Sentinels of hope they be,
    Drenched with sleet, and dashed with foam,
    Standing there in loneliness,
    Fireside joys for men to keep;
    Through the midnight slumberless
    That the quiet shore may sleep.

    Two bright eyes awake all night
    To the fierce moods of the sea;
    Eyes that only close when light
    Dawns on lonely hill and tree.
    O kind watchers! teach us, too,
    Steadfast courage, sufferance long!
    Where an eye is turned to you,
    Should a human heart grow strong.

  5. The Lighthouse

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
    And on its outer point, some miles away,
    The Lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
    A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.

    Even at this distance I can see the tides,
    Upheaving, break unheard along its base,
    A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
    In the white lip and tremor of the face.

    And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright,
    Through the deep purple of the twilight air,
    Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light
    With strange, unearthly splendor in the glare!

    Not one alone; from each projecting cape
    And perilous reef along the ocean's verge,
    Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
    Holding its lantern o'er the restless surge.

    Like the great giant Christopher it stands
    Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
    Wading far out among the rocks and sands,
    The night-o'ertaken mariner to save.

    And the great ships sail outward and return,
    Bending and bowing o'er the billowy swells,
    And ever joyful, as they see it burn,
    They wave their silent welcomes and farewells.

    They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
    Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
    And eager faces, as the light unveils,
    Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.

    The mariner remembers when a child,
    On his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink;
    And when, returning from adventures wild,
    He saw it rise again o'er ocean's brink.

    Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same
    Year after year, through all the silent night
    Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
    Shines on that inextinguishable light!

    It sees the ocean to its bosom clasp
    The rocks and sea-sand with the kiss of peace;
    It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
    And hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.

    The startled waves leap over it; the storm
    Smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
    And steadily against its solid form
    Press the great shoulders of the hurricane.

    The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
    Of wings and winds and solitary cries,
    Blinded and maddened by the light within,
    Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.

    A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
    Still grasping in his hand the fire of Jove,
    It does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
    But hails the mariner with words of love.

    "Sail on!" it says, "sail on, ye stately ships!
    And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
    Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse,
    Be yours to bring man nearer unto man!"

  6. Shanid Castle

    by Gerald Griffin. Few landscapes on a calm and sunny evening present a scene of sweet and solemn beauty exceeding that of the little island of Scattery, or Iniscatha, near the mouth of the Shannon, with its lofty round tower and the ruins of its numerous churches, said to have been founded by St. Sinon or Senanus, one of the brightest ornaments of the ancient Irish church.

    On Shannon side the day is closing fair,
    The kern sits musing by his shieling low,
    And marks, beyond the lonely hills of Clare,
    Blue, rimmed with gold, the clouds of sunset glow.
    Hush in that sun the wide-spread waters flow,
    Returning warm the day’s departing smile;
    Along the sunny highland pacing slow
    The keyriaght lingers with his herd the while,
    And bells are tolling faint from far Saint Sinon’s isle.

    O loved shore! with softest memories twined,
    Sweet fall the summer on thy margin fair!
    And peace come whispering, like a morning wind,
    Dear thoughts of love to every bosom there!
    The horrid wreck and driving storm forbear
    Thy smiling strand, nor oft the accents swell
    Along thy hills of grief or heart-wrung care;
    But heaven look down upon each lowly dell,
    And bless thee for the joys I yet remember well!

  7. On the Lighthouse at Antibes

    by Mathilde Blind

    A stormy light of sunset glows and glares
    Between two banks of cloud, and o'er the brine
    Thy fair lamp on the sky's carnation line
    Alone on the lone promontory flares:
    Friend of the Fisher who at nightfall fares
    Where lurk false reefs masked by the hyaline
    Of dimpling waves, within whose smile divine
    Death lies in wait behind Circean snares.

    The evening knows thee ere the evening star;
    Or sees thy flame sole Regent of the bight,
    When storm, hoarse rumoured by the hills afar,
    Makes mariners steer landward by thy light,
    Which shows through shock of hostile nature's war
    How man keeps watch o'er man through deadliest night.

  8. The Inchcape Rock

    by Robert Southey

    No stir in the air, no stir in the sea,
    The Ship was still as she could be;
    Her sails from heaven received no motion,
    Her keel was steady in the ocean.

    Without either sign or sound of their shock,
    The waves flow’d over the Inchcape Rock;
    So little they rose, so little they fell,
    They did not move the Inchcape Bell.

    The Abbot of Aberbrothok
    Had placed that bell on the Inchcape Rock;
    On a buoy in the storm it floated and swung,
    And over the waves its warning rung.

    When the Rock was hid by the surge’s swell,
    The Mariners heard the warning Bell;
    And then they knew the perilous Rock,
    And blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok

    The Sun in the heaven was shining gay,
    All things were joyful on that day;
    The sea-birds scream’d as they wheel’d round,
    And there was joyaunce in their sound.

    The buoy of the Inchcpe Bell was seen
    A darker speck on the ocean green;
    Sir Ralph the Rover walk’d his deck,
    And fix’d his eye on the darker speck.

    He felt the cheering power of spring,
    It made him whistle, it made him sing;
    His heart was mirthful to excess,
    But the Rover’s mirth was wickedness.

    His eye was on the Inchcape Float;
    Quoth he, “My men, put out the boat,
    And row me to the Inchcape Rock,
    And I’ll plague the Abbot of Aberbrothok.”

    The boat is lower’d, the boatmen row,
    And to the Inchcape Rock they go;
    Sir Ralph bent over from the boat,
    And he cut the bell from the Inchcape Float.

    Down sank the Bell with a gurgling sound,
    The bubbles rose and burst around;
    Quoth Sir Ralph, “The next who comes to the Rock,
    Won’t bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok.”

    Sir ralph the Rover sail’d away,
    He scour’d the seas for many a day;
    And now grown rich with plunder’d store,
    He steers his course for Scotland’s shore.

    So thick a haze o’erspreads the sky,
    They cannot see the sun on high;
    The wind hath blown a gale all day,
    At evening it hath died away.

    On the deck the Rover takes his stand,
    So dark it is they see no land.
    Quoth Sir Ralph, “It will be lighter soon,
    For there is the dawn of the rising Moon.”

    “Canst hear,” said one, “the breakers roar?
    For methinks we should be near the shore.”
    “Now, where we are I cannot tell,
    But I wish we could hear the Inchcape Bell.”

    They hear no sound, the swell is strong,
    Though the wind hath fallen they drift along;
    Till the vessel strikes with a shivering shock,
    “Oh Christ! It is the Inchcape Rock!”

    Sir Ralph the Rover tore his hair,
    He curst himself in his despair;
    The waves rush in on every side,
    The ship is sinking beneath the tide.

    But even in his dying fear,
    One dreadful sound could the Rover hear;
    A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell,
    The Devil below was ringing his knell.

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