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Poems About Ships

Table of Contents


  1. Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes
  2. Clipper Ships by Robert N. Rose
  3. The Spirit of the North by Oscar Williams
  4. The Ship is Ready by Hannah Flagg Gould
  5. The Sailing of the Fleets by Bliss Carman
  6. Whether my bark went down at sea by Emily Dickinson
  7. Down at the Docks by Isabel Ecclestone Mackay
  8. Docks by Carl Sandburg
  9. Sailing To-Night by Anonymous
  10. A Gray Day by Ruby Archer
  11. A Life on the Ocean Wave by Epes Sargent

Shipwreck and Tragedy

  1. Unreturning by Emily Dickinson
  2. The Inchcape Rock by Robert Southey
  3. Casabianca by Felicia Dorthea Hemans
  4. The Wreck of the Hesperus by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  5. The Sea-Boy by Lydia Sigourney
  6. The "Three Bells" of Glasgow by John Greenleaf Whittier
  7. Shipwreck by Emily Dickinson
  8. The Wreck at Sea by Hannah Flagg Gould
  9. Adrift! A little boat adrift! by Emily Dickinson
  10. Two swimmers wrestled on the spar by Emily Dickinson
  11. Glee! The great storm is over! by Emily Dickinson
  12. The Bed on the Beach by Hannah Flagg Gould
  13. Seadrift by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  14. The Half-Mast Flag by Hannah Flagg Gould
  15. Changes on the Deep by Hannah Flagg Gould
  16. The Wind and the Sea by Laurence Dunbar
  17. Waiting by Millie Colcord


  1. Old Ironsides

    by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
    Long has it waved on high,
    And many an eye has danced to see
    That banner in the sky;
    Beneath it rung the battle shout,
    And burst the cannon’s roar;—
    The meteor of the ocean air
    Shall sweep the clouds no more!

    Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood
    Where knelt the vanquished foe,
    When winds were hurrying o’er the flood
    And waves were white below,
    No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
    Or know the conquered knee;—
    The harpies of the shore shall pluck
    The eagle of the sea!

    O, better that her shattered hulk
    Should sink beneath the wave;
    Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
    And there should be her grave;
    Nail to the mast her holy flag,
    Set every thread-bare sail,
    And give her to the god of storms,—
    The lightning and the gale!

  2. Clipper Ships

    by Robert N. Rose

    Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made,
    For somewhere deep in their oaken hearts the soul of a song is laid;
    A soul that sings with the ship along through plunging hills of blue,
    And fills her canvas cups of white with winds that drive her through.
    For how could a nail and a piece of wood, tied with a canvas thread,
    Become a nymph on moon-washed paths if the soul of the ship were fled?

    Her bosom throbs as her lover's arms clasp her in fond embrace,
    And the joyous kiss of briny lips is fresh on her maiden face.
    No storm can smother the hempen song that wells in her laughing throat—
    Small wonder then that men go mad for the love of the sea and a boat.
    For the singing sheet is a siren that tugs at the hearts of men,
    And down to the sea they must go once more, tho they never come back again.

  3. The Spirit of the North

    by Oscar Williams

    The sea blood slumbering in our veins
    Through the life we've led on hills and plains
    Has caught the sound of waves once more
    That break upon the northern shore.

    And a thousand years are swept away —
    The Vikings' time was yesterday —
    We cannot live in land-locked bowers,
    The sea is ours! The sea is ours!

    And we'll scour the seas in our ships of steam,
    And our merchantmen with their sails shall gleam,
    And it shall come to all men's ken
    That the old north spirit moves again.

  4. The Ship is Ready

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    Fare thee well! the ship is ready,
    And the breeze is fresh and steady.
    Hands are fast the anchor weighing;
    High in the air the streamer's playing.
    Spread the sails—the waves are swelling
    Proudly round thy buoyant dwelling,
    Fare thee well! and when at sea,
    Think of those, who sigh for thee.

    When from land and home receding,
    And from hearts, that ache to bleeding,
    Think of those behind, who love thee,
    While the sun is bright above thee!
    Then, as down to ocean glancing,
    With the waves his rays are dancing,
    Think how long the night will be
    To the eyes, that weep for thee.

    When the lonely night-watch keeping,
    All below thee still and sleeping—
    As the needle points the quarter
    O'er the wide and trackless water,
    Let thy vigils ever find thee
    Mindful of the friends behind thee!
    Let thy bosom's magnet be
    Turned to those, who wake for thee!

    When, with slow and gentle motion,
    Heaves the bosom of the ocean—
    While in peace thy bark is riding,
    And the silver moon is gliding
    O'er the sky with tranquil splendor,
    Where the shining hosts attend her;
    Let the brightest visions be
    Country, home and friends, to thee!

    When the tempest hovers o'er thee,
    Danger, wreck and death before thee,
    While the sword of fire is gleaming,
    Wild the winds, the torrent streaming,
    Then, a pious suppliant bending,
    Let thy thoughts to heaven ascending
    Reach the mercy-seat, to be
    Met by prayers that rise for thee!

  5. The Sailing of the Fleets

    by Bliss Carman

    Now the spring is in the town,
    Now the wind is in the tree,
    And the wintered keels go down
    To the calling of the sea.

    Out from mooring, dock, and slip,
    Through the harbor buoys they glide,
    Drawing seaward till they dip
    To the swirling of the tide.

    One by one and two by two,
    Down the channel turns they go,
    Steering for the open blue
    Where the salty great airs blow;

    Craft of many a build and trim,
    Every stitch of sail unfurled,
    Till they hang upon the rim
    Of the azure ocean world.

    Who has ever, man or boy,
    Seen the sea all flecked with gold,
    And not longed to go with joy
    Forth upon adventures bold?

    Who could bear to stay indoor,
    Now the wind is in the street,
    For the creaking of the oar
    And the tugging of the sheet!

    Now the spring is in the town,
    Who would not a rover be,
    When the wintered keels go down
    To the calling of the sea?

  6. Whether my bark went down at sea

    by Emily Dickinson

    Whether my bark went down at sea,
    Whether she met with gales,
    Whether to isles enchanted
    She bent her docile sails;

    By what mystic mooring
    She is held to-day, —
    This is the errand of the eye
    Out upon the bay.

  7. Down at the Docks

    by Isabel Ecclestone Mackay

    Down at the docks—when the smoke clouds lie,
    Wind-ript and red, on an angry sky—
    Coal-dumps and derricks and piled-up bales,
    Tar and the gear of forgotten sails,
    Rusted chains and a broken spar
    (Yesterday's breath on the things that are)
    A lone, black cat and a snappy cur,
    Smell of high-tide and of newcut fir,
    Smell of low-tide, fish, weed!—I swear
    I love every blessed smell that's there—
    For, aeons ago when the sea began,
    My soul was the soul of a sailorman.

    Down at the docks—where the ships come in,
    And the endless trails of the sea begin,
    Where the shining wake of a steamer's track
    Is barred by the tow of the tugboats black,
    Where slim yachts dip to the singing spray
    And a gay wind whistles the world away—
    Here sad ships lie which will sail no more,
    But new ships build on the noisy shore,
    And always the breath of the wind and tide
    Whispers the lure of the sea outside,
    Till now and to-morrow and yesterday
    Are linked by the spell of the faraway!

    Down at the docks—when the morning's new
    And the air is gold and the distance blue,
    There's a pull at the heart! But best of all
    Is to see the sun shrink, red and small,
    While the fog steals in (more surely fleet
    Than the smacks that run from her white-shod feet)
    And clamours of startled calls arise
    From bewildered ships that have lost their eyes;
    The fog horn bellows its deep-mouthed shout,
    The little lights on the shore blur out
    And strange, dim shapes pass wistfully
    With a secret tide to a secret sea.

  8. Docks

    by Carl Sandburg

    Strolling along
    By the teeming docks,
    I watch the ships put out.
    Black ships that heave and lunge
    And move like mastodons
    Arising from lethargic sleep.

    The fathomed harbor
    Calls them not nor dares
    Them to a strain of action,
    But outward, on and outward,
    Sounding low-reverberating calls,
    Shaggy in the half-lit distance,
    They pass the pointed headland,
    View the wide, far-lifting wilderness
    And leap with cumulative speed
    To test the challenge of the sea.

    Doggedly onward plunging,
    Into salt and mist and foam and sun.

  9. There's a Ship on the Sea

    by Mary Mapes Dodge

    There’s a ship on the sea. It is sailing to-night,
    Sailing to-night!
    And father’s aboard, and the moon is all bright,
    Shining and bright!
    Dear Moon, he’ll be sailing for many a night—
    Sailing from mother and me.
    Oh, follow the ship with your silvery light,
    As father sails over the sea!

  10. A Gray Day

    by Ruby Archer

    A gray day, and the gulls are gone.
    Visor of mist o'er the sun is drawn.
    The cordage creaks and the sails all strain,
    The deck is drenched with the rushing rain,
    The waves leap strong at the struggling keel,
    And the ship rides madly with plunge and reel.
    But the sailors shout as they haul away,
    And merrily sing, for it's naught care they
    For the wind that screams on the lee,
    Or a gray day out at sea.

  11. A Life on the Ocean Wave

    by Epes Sargent

    A life on the ocean wave!
    A home on the rolling deep!
    Where the scatter'd waters rave,
    And the winds their revels keep!
    Like an eagle cag'd I pine,
    On this dull unchanging shore—
    Oh give me the flashing brine,
    The spray and the tempest's roar.
    A life on the ocean wave!
    A home on the rolling deep!
    Where the scatter'd waters rave,
    And the winds their revels keep!

    Once more on the deck I stand
    Of my own swift-gliding craft,
    Set sail! farewell to the land,
    The gale follows fair abaft.
    We shoot through the sparkling foam,
    Like an ocean bird set free;
    Like the ocean bird our home,
    We'll find far out on the sea.
    A life on the ocean wave! &c.

    The land is no longer in view;
    The clouds have begun to frown;
    But with a stout vessel and crew,
    We'll say let the storm come down.
    And the song of our hearts shall be,
    While the winds and the waters rave,
    A life on the heaving sea!
    A home on the bounding wave.
    A life on the ocean wave! &c.

  12. Shipwreck and Tragedy

  13. Unreturning

    by Emily Dickinson

    'T was such a little, little boat
    That toddled down the bay!
    'T was such a gallant, gallant sea
    That beckoned it away!

    'T was such a greedy, greedy wave
    That licked it from the coast;
    Nor ever guessed the stately sails
    My little craft was lost!

  14. 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.

  15. Casabianca

    by Felicia Dorthea Hemans

    The boy stood on the burning deck,
    Whence all but him had fled;
    The flame that lit the battle's wreck
    Shone round him o'er the dead.

    Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
    As born to rule the storm;
    A creature of heroic blood,
    A proud though childlike form.

    The flames rolled on—he would not go
    Without his father's word;
    That father, faint in death below,
    His voice no longer heard.

    He called aloud, "Say, father, say
    If yet my task is done?"
    He knew not that the chieftain lay
    Unconscious of his son.

    "Speak, father!" once again he cried,
    "If I may yet be gone!"
    And but the booming shots replied,
    And fast the flames rolled on.

    Upon his brow he felt their breath,
    And in his waving hair;
    And looked from that lone post of death
    In still, yet brave despair.

    And shouted but once more aloud
    "My father! must I stay?"
    While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,
    The wreathing fires made way.

    They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
    They caught the flag on high,
    And streamed above the gallant child
    Like banners in the sky.

    Then came a burst of thunder sound—
    The boy—oh! where was he?
    —Ask of the winds that far around
    With fragments strew the sea;

    With mast, and helm, and pennon fair.
    That well had borne their part—
    But the noblest thing that perished there
    Was that young, faithful heart.

  16. The Wreck of the Hesperus

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    It was the schooner Hesperus,
    That sailed the wintry sea;
    And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
    To bear him company.

    Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax,
    Her checks like the dawn of day,
    And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
    That ope in the month of May.

    The skipper, he stood beside the helm,
    His pipe was in his mouth,
    And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
    The smoke now west, now south.

    Then up and spake an old sailor,
    Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
    "I pray thee, put into yonder port,
    For I fear the hurricane.

    "Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
    And to-night no moon we see!"
    The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
    And a scornful laugh laughed he.

    Colder and louder blew the wind,
    A gale from the northeast;
    The snow fell hissing in the brine,
    And the billows frothed like yeast.

    Down came the storm, and smote amain
    The vessel in its strength;
    She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
    Then leaped her cable's length.

    "Come hither! come hither! my little daughter,
    And do not tremble so;
    For I can weather the roughest gale
    That ever wind did blow."

    He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat,
    Against the stinging blast:
    He cut a rope from a broken spar,
    And bound her to the mast.

    "O father! I hear the church bells ring,
    Oh say, what may it be?"
    "'Tis a fog bell on a rock-bound coast!"
    And he steered for the open sea.

    "O father! I hear the sound of guns,
    Oh say, what may it be?"
    "Some ship in distress, that can not live
    In such an angry sea!"

    "O father! I see a gleaming light,
    Oh say, what may it be?"
    But the father answered never a word,
    A frozen corpse was he.

    Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
    With his face turned to the skies,
    The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
    On his fixed and glassy eyes.

    Then the maiden clasped her hands, and prayed
    That saved she might be;
    And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave
    On the lake of Galilee.

    And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
    Through the whistling sleet and snow,
    Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
    Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.

    And ever the fitful gusts between
    A sound came from the land:
    It was the sound of the trampling surf
    On the rocks and the hard sea sand.

    The breakers were right beneath her bows,
    She drifted a dreary wreck,
    And a whooping billow swept the crew
    Like icicles from her deck.

    She struck where the white and fleecy waves
    Looked soft as carded wool,
    But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
    Like the horns of an angry bull.

    Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
    With the masts, went by the board;
    Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
    Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

    At day break, on the bleak seabeach,
    A fisherman stood aghast,
    To see the form of a maiden fair
    Lashed close to a drifting mast.

    The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
    The salt tears in her eyes;
    And he saw her hair, like the brown seaweed,
    On the billows fall and rise.

    Such was the wreck of the Hesperus
    In the midnight and the snow:
    Heav'n save us all from a death like this
    On the reef of Norman's Woe!

  17. The Wreck of the Isadore

    by William Henry H. Hinds

    People still show,
    When the tide is low,
    Where that new ship went ashore,
    On that fearful night,
    Near no beacon light,
    'Mid the breakers' crash and roar.

    Forty-five years
    The Heavenly spheres
    Have sped on their shining way,
    Since one day at noon,
    When there was no moon,
    She left the Kennebunk bay.

    The captain said
    As he went ahead,
    His "ship must sail that day;
    Tho' the winds and wave
    Might storm and might rave,
    His ship should be on her way."

    The clouds shut down
    With a seeming frown,
    That told of a coming storm;
    And the south winds blew
    As lost to their view,
    Were their homes so snug and warm.

    The winds shifts east
    And the briny yeast
    Is blown far unto the shore,
    The ship with full sail
    Is caught in the gale,
    Her shrouds in ribbons it tore.

    No one can go
    For the blinding snow
    Up aloft to reef the sail;
    And the surging deep
    Seems ever to leap
    Into mountains in the gale.

    In vain they shout
    And try to "about"
    Their ship in its mad career.
    It is "pitchy dark"
    And there's not a spark
    To tell them which way to steer.

    With sails all rent
    The "Isadore" went
    Straight on to the rocky reef,
    Where no arm can save
    From a watery grave,
    And no life boat give relief.

    O the anguish then
    Of those fifteen men,
    As they saw their horrible fate,
    That they there must die
    With kind friends so nigh,
    All unconscious of their state.

    At early dawn
    On the coming morn
    When their neighbors sought the shore,
    They saw on the beach
    Almost within reach
    The wreck of the "Isadore."

    And along the strand
    On every hand
    In death's cold and silent sleep,
    Those sailors so true,
    That Kennebunk crew
    Were strewn by the angry deep.

    Their spirits now free,
    On a stormless sea
    Are sailing forevermore;
    And cables of love
    Fast anchored above,
    Still draw their friends to its shore.

  18. The Sea-Boy

    by Lydia Sigourney

    "Up the main-top-mast, ho!"
    The storm was loud,
    And the deep midnight muffled up her head,
    Leaving no ray.

    By the red binnacle,
    I saw the sea-boy. His young cheek was pale,
    And his lips trembled. But he dar'd not hear
    That hoarse command repeated. So he sprang,
    With slender foot amid the slippery shrouds.

    He, oft by moonlight watch, had lur'd my ear,
    With everlasting stories of his home,
    And of his mother. His fair brow told tales
    Of household kisses, and of gentle hands
    That bound it when it ached, and laid it down
    On the soft pillow, with a curtaining care.

    And he had sometimes spoken of the cheer
    That waited him, when, wearied from his school,
    At winter's eve, he came. Then, he would pause,
    For his high beating bosom threw a chain
    O'er his proud lips, or else he would have sigh'd,
    In deep remorse, for leaving such a home.

    And he would haste away, and pace the deck,
    More rapidly, as if to hide from me,
    The gushing tear. I mark'd the inward strife
    Unquestioning, save by a silent prayer
    That the tear wrung so bitterly, might work
    The sea-boy's good, and wash away all trace
    Of disobedience. Now, the same big tear
    Hung like a pearl upon him, as he climb'd
    And grappled to the mast.

    I watch'd his toil,
    With strange foreboding, till he seem'd a speck
    Upon the ebon bosom of the cloud.
    And I remember'd that he once had said,
    "I fear I shall not see my home again:"
    And sad the memory of those mournful words,
    Dwelt with me, as he pass'd above my sight,
    Into thick darkness.

    The wild blast swept on.
    The strong ship toss'd.
    Shuddering, I heard a plunge,
    A heavy plunge,—a gurgling 'mid the wave.
    I shouted to the crew. In vain! In vain!
    The ship held on her way. And never more
    Shall that poor, delicate sea-boy raise his head,
    To do the bidding of those roughen'd men,
    Whose home is on the sea.

    And never more
    May his fond mother strain him to her breast,
    Weeping that hardship thus should bronze the brow,
    To her so beautiful, nor the kind sire
    Make glad by his forgiveness, the rash youth
    Who wander'd from his home, to throw the wealth
    Of his warm feelings on the faithless sea.

  19. The Three Bells of Glasgow

    by John Greenleaf Whittier

    Beneath the low-hung night cloud
    That raked her splintering mast
    The good ship settled slowly,
    The cruel leak gained fast.

    Over the awful ocean
    Her signal guns pealed out.
    Dear God! was that Thy answer
    From the horror round about?

    A voice came down the wild wind,
    "Ho! ship ahoy!" its cry:
    "Our stout _Three Bells_ of Glasgow
    Shall stand till daylight by!"

    Hour after hour crept slowly,
    Yet on the heaving swells
    Tossed up and down the ship-lights,
    The lights of the _Three Bells_!

    And ship to ship made signals,
    Man answered back to man,
    While oft, to cheer and hearten,
    The _Three Bells_ nearer ran:

    And the captain from her taffrail
    Sent down his hopeful cry.
    "Take heart! Hold on!" he shouted,
    "The _Three Bells_ shall stand by!"

    All night across the waters
    The tossing lights shone clear;
    All night from reeling taffrail
    The _Three Bells_ sent her cheer.

    And when the dreary watches
    Of storm and darkness passed,
    Just as the wreck lurched under,
    All souls were saved at last.

    Sail on, _Three Bells_, forever,
    In grateful memory sail!
    Ring on, _Three Bells_ of rescue,
    Above the wave and gale!

    Type of the Love eternal,
    Repeat the Master's cry,
    As tossing through our darkness
    The lights of God draw nigh!

  20. Shipwreck

    by Emily Dickinson

    It tossed and tossed, —
    A little brig I knew, —
    O'ertook by blast,
    It spun and spun,
    And groped delirious, for morn.

    It slipped and slipped,
    As one that drunken stepped;
    Its white foot tripped,
    Then dropped from sight.

    Ah, brig, good-night
    To crew and you;
    The ocean's heart too smooth, too blue,
    To break for you.

  21. The Wreck at Sea

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    The struggle is over! The storm-cloud at last
    Has emptied itself, and the fury is past!
    The ship is a ruin! The mariners wait
    Their summons to enter eternity's gate.
    The remnant of canvass that flaps in the wind,
    Their signal of woe, they may soon leave behind
    To give its last flutter above the wild surge,
    As all it betokens the deep shall immerge.
    They see rising round them a chill, restless grave,
    While Death loudly calls them from out the hoarse wave.

    'Come to me! come! ye have no where to flee,
    But down in the waters for quiet with me!
    My thin, winding arms, ever naked and cold,
    Have nothing to warm them but what they infold.
    My being unlawful I have to sustain
    By feeding on life, that from others I drain!
    The sweet buds of childhood, youth's beautiful bloom,
    And age's ripe clusters I pluck and consume.
    I traverse the world by the light that I steal
    Alone from the eyes that in darkness I seal!

    'In ocean's black chambers I welcome the forms
    That rush to my kingdom, through shipwreck and storms.
    The babe never prattles or climbs on the knee
    Of him, who is low in the cold, deep sea.
    The eye of his widow grows sunken and dim,
    With looking and waking and weeping for him.
    The parent's fond heart slowly bleeds for the son,
    Till I, for my throne, a new trophy have won!
    Come! and the mourners away on the shore
    Shall never behold you, or hear of you more!'

    Hush! hush! thou pale monarch! a voice from above!
    It chides thee—its tones are of mercy and love.
    Away! king of terrors! In silence retire.
    Though high is thy throne, there is one that is higher!
    The sinking have looked from the billows that swell
    Around them, to Him, who the surges can quell.
    And He, who before has the tempest allayed,
    And said to the mariner, 'Be not afraid!'
    Is now walking over the waters, to tread
    Upon the white spray that is pluming thy head!

    A sail! ho! a sail in the moment of need!
    On yonder mad breakers she's riding with speed.
    A rescue! it comes in the light little boat,
    That's lowered and manned o'er the perils to float.
    While life for the perishing, hope for despair,
    And joy and reward for affection are there,
    With rocking and tossing, as onward she steers,
    And shooting and plunging, the wreck as she nears
    One moment, and then the last wave will be crossed!
    Yet all is too late if that unit be lost!

    The helper and helpless, while panting to meet,
    Have sent forth their voices each other to greet.
    And when did those voices go out on the air,
    An import so great, such an errand to bear?
    Emotions too mighty for sound to convey,
    Or, long for the spirit to feel in the clay—
    A pulse never known in their bosoms before,
    Is each proving now, at the dash of the oar.
    And sweet to their hearts will the memory be
    Of these clasping hands on the wild, deep sea!

  22. Adrift! A little boat adrift!

    by Emily Dickinson

    Adrift! A little boat adrift!
    And night is coming down!
    Will no one guide a little boat
    Unto the nearest town?

    So sailors say, on yesterday,
    Just as the dusk was brown,
    One little boat gave up its strife,
    And gurgled down and down.

    But angels say, on yesterday,
    Just as the dawn was red,
    One little boat o'erspent with gales
    Retrimmed its masts, redecked its sails
    Exultant, onward sped!

  23. Two swimmers wrestled on the spar

    by Emily Dickinson

    Two swimmers wrestled on the spar
    Until the morning sun,
    When one turned smiling to the land.
    O God, the other one!

    The stray ships passing spied a face
    Upon the waters borne,
    With eyes in death still begging raised,
    And hands beseeching thrown.

  24. Glee! The great storm is over!

    by Emily Dickinson

    Glee! The great storm is over!
    Four have recovered the land;
    Forty gone down together
    Into the boiling sand.

    Ring, for the scant salvation!
    Toll, for the bonnie souls, —
    Neighbor and friend and bridegroom,
    Spinning upon the shoals!

    How they will tell the shipwreck
    When winter shakes the door,
    Till the children ask, "But the forty?
    Did they come back no more?"

    Then a silence suffuses the story,
    And a softness the teller's eye;
    And the children no further question,
    And only the waves reply.

  25. The Bed on the Beach

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    By what rude waves hast thou been tossed,
    To gain this quiet beach?
    What wide-spread waters hast thou crossed,
    This peaceful shore to reach?

    An awful secret dost thou tell
    About the yawning deep,
    That, while her billows war and swell,
    They most profoundly keep.

    Thou speakest of one whose weary frame
    Has sought repose on thee;
    But not of kindred, home, or name,
    Sad outcast of the sea!

    Thou giv'st no record of his birth,
    No token of the clime,
    Where he was last a child of earth,
    Or when he passed from time.

    And who must now, on some far shore,
    Await the coming sail
    Of him, they will behold no more
    Till mortal sight shall fail?

    For fearful things dost thou present
    Before the spirit's view;
    The parting bark! the canvass rent!
    The helpless, dying crew!

    Of one dread scene the fatal whole,
    In thought, I hear and see.
    It chills my blood—it makes my soul
    Grow sick to look at thee.

    'The seas must render up their dead!'
    Is all thou dost reply;
    While o'er thee, cold and restless bed,
    The tide rolls proud and high!

    The guilty deep is taking back
    The witness of her wrath,
    To bury it with every track
    That marks its troubled path!

  26. Seadrift

    by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

    See where she stands, on the wet sea-sands,
    Looking across the water:
    Wild is the night, but wilder still
    The face of the fisher's daughter.

    What does she there, in the lightning's glare,
    What does she there, I wonder?
    What dread demon drags her forth
    In the night and wind and thunder?

    Is it the ghost that haunts this coast?—
    The cruel waves mount higher,
    And the beacon pierces the stormy dark
    With its javelin of fire.

    Beyond the light of the beacon bright
    A merchantman is tacking;
    The hoarse wind whistling through the shrouds,
    And the brittle topmasts cracking.

    The sea it moans over dead men's bones,
    The sea it foams in anger;
    The curlews swoop through the resonant air
    With a warning cry of danger.

    The star-fish clings to the sea-weed's rings
    In a vague, dumb sense of peril;
    And the spray, with its phantom-fingers, grasps
    At the mullein dry and sterile.

    O, who is she that stands by the sea,
    In the lightning's glare, undaunted?—
    Seems this now like the coast of hell
    By one white spirit haunted!

    The night drags by; and the breakers die
    Along the ragged ledges;
    The robin stirs in his drenchéd nest,
    The hawthorn blooms on the hedges.

    In shimmering lines, through the dripping pines,
    The stealthy morn advances;
    And the heavy sea-fog straggles back
    Before those bristling lances.

    Still she stands on the wet sea-sands;
    The morning breaks above her,
    And the corpse of a sailor gleams on the rocks—
    What if it were her lover?

  27. The Half-Mast Flag

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    How slow yon bark moves o'er the trembling waves
    While her low flag the sighing breezes sweep!
    She comes, a mourner, from the new-made grave
    Of him whom she has buried in the deep.

    With sorrow heavy-laden, she appears;
    Beneath its weight must many a spirit bend!
    For hope's last ray she comes to quench in tears
    At once, for parent, brother, sister, friend.

    Their loved one she has left upon her way!—
    Low she has laid him in an ocean tomb,
    With wat'ry mountains o'er his youthful clay,
    Where human sight shall never pierce the gloom.

    To eyes that oft have sought her coming sail,
    That they again might rest with joy on him,
    Her silent signal tells the fearful tale,
    While inward anguish turns their vision dim.

    EDWIN! can virtue, promise, early worth,
    And warm affection, such as thine, depart?
    Can one like thee be summoned from the earth,
    And yet, the living lay it not to heart?

    Oh! there is sadness where thy face was seen,
    And lamentation where thy voice was known,
    From those who feel the gate of death between
    Thy bright, immortal spirit, and their own.

    And like the wailing surges of the sea,
    That o'er thy sleeping clay, unceasing roll,
    Sorrow's dark waves, to those who mourn for thee,
    Rise in their might, to overwhelm the soul.

    Yet, woe is but for them. For thee, above
    Is joy unmingled, which the blessed know!
    Thy voice is tuned to praise eternal love,
    While sighs and sadness fill thy place below.

    Long have the bending angels beckoned thee
    To quit this thorny vale and come on high;
    Thy years on earth were few—and thou art free
    From pain, from care and every mortal tie!

    Yes—thou hast crossed the cold and swelling tide
    Of Jordan, borne upon thy Saviour's breast.
    Thou now art safe where every tear is dried,
    Where pain is ended, and the weary rest.

    For He who bids the stormy billows sleep,
    Placed his soft hand beneath thy sinking head;
    He, thy best Friend, received, upon the deep,
    His own redeemed, from off thy dying bed.

    And, shall we wish thy young and blessed feet
    Back from the holy hills they now have trod?
    Or hold our own prepared, that we may meet
    Thy sainted spirit in its home with God?

    He is Eternal Wisdom—we are dust;
    And meekly at his footstool may we dwell!
    His hand lies heavy on us—yet we trust
    In him alone who 'doeth all things well!'

    EDWIN! beloved, departed one, adieu!
    Since He, who lent thee, has recalled his own,
    We bow in silence, while, to mortal view,
    Clouds and thick darkness hang around his throne!

  28. Changes on the Deep

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    A gallant ship! and trim and tight,
    Across the deep she speeds away,
    While mantled with the golden light
    The sun throws back, at close of day.
    And who, that sees that stately ship
    Her haughty stem in ocean dip,
    Has ever seen a prouder one
    Illumined by a setting sun?

    The breath of summer sweet and soft,
    Her canvass swells, while, wide and fair,
    And floating from her mast aloft,
    Her flag plays off on gentle air.
    And as her steady prow divides
    The waters to her even sides,
    She passes like a bird, between
    The peaceful deep and sky serene.

    And now grave twilight's tender veil
    The moon, with shafts of silver, rends;
    And down on billow, deck and sail
    Her placid lustre gently sends.
    The stars, as if the arch of blue
    Were pierced to let the glory through,
    From their bright world look out and win
    The thoughts of man to enter in.

    And, many a heart that's warm and true
    That noble ship bears on with pride;
    While 'mid the many forms, are two
    Of passing beauty, side by side.
    A fair young mother standing by
    Her bosom's lord, has fixed her eye
    With his, upon the blessed star
    That points them to their home afar.

    Their thoughts fly forth to those, who there
    Are waiting now, with joy to hail
    The moment that shall grant their prayer,
    And heave in sight their coming sail.
    For, many a time the changeful queen
    Of night has vanished, and been seen
    Since o'er a foreign shore to roam,
    They passed from that dear, native home.

    The babe, that on its father's breast,
    Has let its little eyelids close,
    The mother bears below to rest,
    And sinks with it in sweet repose.
    The while a sailor climbs the shroud,
    And in the distance spies a cloud:
    Low, like a swelling seed it lies
    From which the towering storm shall rise.

    The powers of air are now about
    To muster from their hidden caves;
    The winds unchained come rushing out,
    And into mountains heap the waves.
    Upon the sky the darkness spreads!
    The tempest on the ocean treads;
    And yawning caverns are its track
    Amid the waters wild and black.

    Its voice—but, who shall give the sounds
    Of that dread voice?—The ship is dashed
    In roaring depths—and now, she bounds
    On high, by foaming surges lashed.
    And how is she the storm to bide?
    Its sweeping wings are strong and wide!
    The hand of man has loss control
    O'er her!—his work is for the soul!

    She's in a scene of nature's war.
    The winds and waters are at strife;
    And both with her, contending for
    The brittle thread of human life
    That she contains; while sail and shroud
    Have yielded; and her head is bowed.
    Then, who that slender thread shall keep,
    But He, whose finger moves the deep?

    A moment—and the angry blast
    Has done its work and hurried on.
    With broken cables, shivered mast;
    With riven sides, and anchor gone,
    Behold the ship in ruin lie,
    While from the waves a piercing cry
    Surmounts the tumult high and wild,
    And sounds to heaven, 'My child! my child!'

    The mother in the whelming surge
    Lifts up her infant o'er the sea,
    While lying on the awful verge
    Where time unveils eternity—
    And calls to Mercy from the skies,
    To come and rescue, while she dies,
    The gift that, with her fleeting breath,
    She offers from the gates of death.

    It is a call for Heaven to hear.
    Maternal fondness sends above
    A voice, that in her Father's ear
    Shall enter quick, for God is love.
    In such a moment, hands like these
    Their Maker with their offering sees.
    And for the faith of such a breast
    He will the blow of death arrest!

    The moon looks pale from out the cloud,
    While Mercy's angel takes the form
    Of him, who, mounted on the shroud,
    Was first to see the coming storm.
    The SAILOR has a ready arm
    To bring relief and cope with harm.
    Though rough his hand, and nerved with steel,
    His heart is warm and quick to feel.

    And see him, as he braves the frown,
    That sky and sea each other give!
    Beheld him where he plunges down,
    That child and mother yet may live,
    And plucks them from a closing grave!
    They're saved! they're saved! the maddened wave
    Leaps foaming up to find its prey
    Snatched from its mouth and borne away.

    They're saved! they're saved! but where is he,
    Who lulled his fearless babe to sleep?
    A floating plank on that wild sea
    Has now his vital spark to keep!
    But, by the wan, affrighted moon,
    Help comes to him; and he is soon
    Upon the deck with living men
    To clasp that smiling boy again.

    And now can He, who only knows
    Each human breast, behold alone
    What pure and grateful incense goes
    From that sad wreck to his high throne.
    The twain whose hearts are truly one
    Will early teach their prattling son
    Upon his little heart to bear
    The SAILOR to his God, in prayer:—

    'O, Thou, who in thy hand dost hold
    The winds and waves, that wake or sleep,
    Thy tender arms of mercy fold
    Around the seamen on the deep!
    And when their voyage of life is o'er,
    May they be welcomed to the shore,
    Whose peaceful streets with gold are paved;
    And angels sing, "They're saved! they're saved!"'

  29. The Wind and the Sea

    by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    I stood by the shore at the death of day,
    As the sun sank flaming red;
    And the face of the waters that spread away
    Was as gray as the face of the dead.

    And I heard the cry of the wanton sea
    And the moan of the wailing wind;
    For love's sweet pain in his heart had he,
    But the gray old sea had sinned.

    The wind was young and the sea was old,
    But their cries went up together;
    The wind was warm and the sea was cold,
    For age makes wintry weather.

    So they cried aloud and they wept amain,
    Till the sky grew dark to hear it;
    And out of its folds crept the misty rain,
    In its shroud, like a troubled spirit.

    For the wind was wild with a hopeless love,
    And the sea was sad at heart
    At many a crime that he wot of,
    Wherein he had played his part.

    He thought of the gallant ships gone down
    By the will of his wicked waves;
    And he thought how the churchyard in the town
    Held the sea-made widows' graves.

    The wild wind thought of the love he had left
    Afar in an Eastern land,
    And he longed, as long the much bereft,
    For the touch of her perfumed hand.

    In his winding wail and his deep-heaved sigh
    His aching grief found vent;
    While the sea looked up at the bending sky
    And murmured: "I repent."

    But e'en as he spoke, a ship came by,
    That bravely ploughed the main,
    And a light came into the sea's green eye,
    And his heart grew hard again.

    Then he spoke to the wind: "Friend, seest thou not
    Yon vessel is eastward bound?
    Pray speed with it to the happy spot
    Where thy loved one may be found."

    And the wind rose up in a dear delight,
    And after the good ship sped;
    But the crafty sea by his wicked might
    Kept the vessel ever ahead.

    Till the wind grew fierce in his despair,
    And white on the brow and lip.
    He tore his garments and tore his hair,
    And fell on the flying ship.

    And the ship went down, for a rock was there,
    And the sailless sea loomed black;
    While burdened again with dole and care,
    The wind came moaning back.

    And still he moans from his bosom hot
    Where his raging grief lies pent,
    And ever when the ships come not,
    The sea says: "I repent,"

  30. Waiting

    by Millie Colcord

    Where the white cliffs throw their slanting shadows
    And the waves roll in with dash and roar,
    Still and patient, in the sunset glory,
    Sits an old man on the rocky shore.

    At his feet the children cluster gaily,
    Looking outward, far across the bay,—
    Tell of wondrous ships upon the ocean,
    Ships that they shall proudly own some day.

    "Tell us," cry the children's eager voices,
    "Tell us, have you any ships at sea?
    Will they bring you, some day, sailing homeward,
    Gems and riches, always yours to be?"

    Then the old man answers very softly,
    "There is one for which I daily wait;
    Though the rest have foundered with their fortunes,
    This one ship will come, however late.

    "She will bring to me no earthly treasure,
    Nothing that shall make me richer here;
    But will take me to a fairer country,
    And each night I pray she may be near."

    He is silent,—eager wait the children,
    Looking upward, with a grave surprise,
    Till the old man's eyes, grown dim with watching,
    Turn once more toward the sunset skies.

    People passing homeward from their labor,
    Pause upon the shore and pity him;
    "Ah! they do not know," the children whisper,
    "He is waiting till his ship comes in."

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