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Titanic Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Iceberg by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts
  2. Heroes of the "Titanic" by Henry Van Dyke
  3. The "Titanic" by Katharine Lee Bates

  1. The "Titanic"

    by Katharine Lee Bates

    As she sped from dawn to gloaming, a palace upon the sea,
    Did the waves from her proud bows foaming whisper what port should be?
    That her maiden voyage was tending to a haven hushed and deep,
    Where after the shock and the rending she should moor at the wharf of sleep?

    Oh, her name shall be tale and token to all the ships that sail,
    How her mighty heart was broken by blow of a crystal flail,
    How in majesty still peerless her helpless head she bowed
    And in light and music, fearless, plunged to her purple shroud.

    Did gleams and dreams half-heeded, while the days so lightly ran,
    Awaken the glory seeded from God in the soul of man?
    For touched with a shining chrism. with love's fine grace imbued.
    Men turned them to heroism as it were but habitude.

    O midnight strange and solemn, when the icebergs stood at gaze,
    Death on one pallid column, to watch our human ways,
    And saw throned Death defeated by a greater lord than he,
    Immortal Life who greeted home-comers from the sea.

  2. Heroes of the "Titanic"

    by Henry Van Dyke

    Honour the brave who sleep
    Where the lost "Titanic" lies,
    The men who knew what a man must do
    When he looks Death in the eyes.

    "Women and children first,"—
    Ah strong and tender cry!
    The sons whom women had borne and nursed,
    Remembered,—and dared to die.

    The boats crept off in the dark:
    The great ship groaned: and then,—
    O stars of the night, who saw that sight,
    Bear witness, These were men!

  3. The Iceberg

    by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts

    I was spawned from the glacier,
    A thousand miles due north
    Beyond Cape Chidley;
    And the spawning,
    When my vast, wallowing bulk went under,
    Emerged and heaved aloft,
    Shaking down cataracts from its rocking sides,
    With mountainous surge and thunder
    Outraged the silence of the Arctic sea.

    Before I was thrust forth
    A thousand years I crept,
    Crawling, crawling, crawling irresistibly,
    Hid in the blue womb of the eternal ice,
    While under me the tortured rock
    Groaned,
    And over me the immeasurable desolation slept.

    Under the pallid dawning
    Of the lidless Arctic day
    Forever no life stirred.
    No wing of bird —
    Of ghostly owl low winnowing
    Or fleet-winged ptarmigan fleeing the pounce of death, —
    No foot of backward-glancing fox
    Half glimpsed, and vanishing like a breath, —
    No lean and gauntly stalking bear,
    Stalking his prey.
    Only the white sun, circling the white sky.
    Only the wind screaming perpetually.

    And then the night —
    The long night, naked, high over the roof of the world,
    Where time seemed frozen in the cold of space, —
    Now black, and torn with cry
    Of unseen voices where the storm raged by,
    Now radiant with spectral light
    As the vault of heaven split wide
    To let the flaming Polar cohorts through,
    And close ranked spears of gold and blue,
    Thin scarlet and thin green,
    Hurtled and clashed across the sphere
    And hissed in sibilant whisperings,
    And died.
    And then the stark moon, swinging low,
    Silver, indifferent, serene,
    Over the sheeted snow.

    But now, an Alp afloat,
    In seizure of the surreptitious tide,
    Began my long drift south to a remote
    And unimagined doom.
    Scornful of storm,
    Unjarred by thunderous buffetting of seas,
    Shearing the giant floes aside,
    Ploughing the wide-flung ice-fields in a spume
    That smoked far up my ponderous flanks,
    Onward I fared,
    My ice-blue pinnacles rendering back the sun
    In darts of sharp radiance;
    My bases fathoms deep in the dark profound.

    And now around me
    Life and the frigid waters all aswarm.
    The smooth wave creamed
    With tiny capelin and the small pale squid, — So pale the light struck through them.
    Gulls and gannets screamed
    Over the feast, and gorged themselves, and rose,
    A clamour of weaving wings, and hid
    Momently my face.
    The great bull whales
    With cavernous jaws agape,
    Scooped in the spoil, and slept,
    Their humped forms just awash, and rocking softly, —
    Or sounded down, down to the deeps, and nosed
    Along my ribbed and sunken roots,
    And in the green gloom scattered the pasturing cod.

    And so I voyaged on, down the dim parallels,
    Convoyed by fields
    Of countless calving seals
    Mild-featured, innocent-eyed, and unforeknowing
    The doom of the red flenching knives.
    I passed the storm-racked gate
    Of Hudson Strait,
    And savage Chidley where the warring tides
    In white wrath seethe forever.
    Down along the sounding shore
    Of iron-fanged, many-watered Labrador
    Slow weeks I shaped my course, and saw
    Dark Mokkowic and dark Napiskawa,
    And came at last off lone Belle Isle, the bane
    Of ships and snare of bergs.
    Here, by the deep conflicting currents drawn,
    I hung,
    And swung,
    The inland voices Gulfward calling me
    To ground amid my peers on the alien strand
    And roam no more.
    But then an off-shore wind,
    A great wind fraught with fate,
    Caught me and pressed me back,
    And I resumed my solitary way.

    Slowly I bore
    South-east by bastioned Bauld,
    And passed the sentinel light far-beaming late
    Along the liners' track,
    And slanted out Atlanticwards, until
    Above the treacherous swaths of fog
    Faded from the view the loom of Newfoundland.

    Beautiful, ethereal
    In the blue sparkle of the gleaming day,
    A soaring miracle
    Of white immensity,
    I was the cynosure of passing ships
    That wondered and were gone,
    Their wreathed smoke trailing them beyonf the verge.
    And when in the night they passed —
    The night of stars and calm,
    Forged up and passed, with churning surge
    And throb of huge propellers, and long-drawn
    Luminous wake behind,
    And sharp, small lights in rows,
    I lay a ghost of menace chill and still,
    A shape pearl-pale and monstrous, off to leeward,
    Blurring the thin horizon line.

    Day dragged on day,
    And then came fog,
    By noon, blind-white,
    And in the night
    Black-thick and smothering the sight.
    Folded therein I waited,
    Waited I knew not what
    And heeded not,
    Greatly incurious and unconcerned.
    I heard the small waves lapping along my base,
    Lipping and whispering, lisping with bated breath
    A casual expectancy of death.
    I heard remote
    The deep, far carrying note
    Blown from the hoarse and hollow throat
    Of some lone tanker groping on her course.
    Louder and louder rose the sound
    In deepening diapason, then passed on,
    Diminishing, and dying, —
    And silence closed around.
    And in the silence came again
    Those stealthy voices,
    That whispering of death.

    And then I heard
    The thud of screws approaching.
    Near and more near,
    Louder and yet more loud,
    Through the thick dark I heard it, —
    The rush and hiss of waters as she ploughed
    Head on, unseen, unseeing,
    Toward where I stood across her path, invisible.
    And then a startled blare
    Of horror close re-echoing, — a glare
    Of sudden, stabbing searchlights
    That but obscurely pierced the gloom;
    And there
    I towered, a dim immensity of doom.

    A roar
    Of tortured waters as the giant screws,
    Reversed, thundered full steam astern.
    Yet forward still she drew, until,
    Slow answering desperate helm,
    She swerved, and all her broadside came in view,
    Crawling beneath me;
    And for a moment I saw faces, blanched,
    Stiffly agape, turned upward, and wild eyes
    Astare; and one long, quavering cry went up
    As a submerged horn gored her through and through,
    Ripping her beam wide open;
    And sullenly she listed, till her funnels
    Crashed on my steep,
    And men sprang, stumbling, for the boats.

    But now, my deep foundations
    Mined by those warmer seas, the hour had come
    When I must change.
    Slowly I leaned above her,
    Slowly at first, then faster,
    And icy fragments rained upon her decks.
    Then my enormous mass descended on her,
    A falling mountain, all obliterating, —
    And the confusion of thin, wailing cries,
    The Babel of shouts and prayers
    And shriek of steam escaping
    Suddenly died.
    And I rolled over,
    Wallowing,
    And once more came to rest,
    My long hid bases heaved up high in air.

    And now, from fogs emerging,
    I traversed blander seas,
    Forgot the fogs, the scourging
    Of sleet-whipped gales, forgot
    My austere origin, my tremendous birth,
    My journeyings, and that last cataclysm
    Of overwhelming ruin.
    My squat, pale, alien bulk
    Basked in the ambient sheen;
    And all about me, league on league outspread,
    A gulf of indigo and green.
    I laughed in the light waves laced with white, —
    Nor knew
    How swiftly shrank my girth
    Under their sly caresses, how the breath
    Of that soft wind sucked up my strength, nor how
    The sweet, insidious fingers of the sun
    Their stealthy depredations wrought upon me.

    Slowly now
    I drifted, dreaming.
    I saw the flying-fish
    With silver gleaming
    Flash from the peacock-bosomed wave
    And flicker through an arc of sunlit air
    Back to their element, desperate to elude
    The jaws of the pursuing albacore.

    Day after day
    I swung in the unhasting tide.
    Sometimes I saw the dolphin folk at play,
    Their lithe sides iridescent-dyed,
    Unheeding in their speed
    That long grey wraith,
    The shark that followed hungering beneath.
    Sometimes I saw a school
    Of porpoise rolling by
    In ranked array,
    Emerging and submerging rhythmically,
    Their blunt black bodies heading all one way
    Until they faded
    In the horizon's dazzling line of light.
    Night after night
    I followed the low, large moon across the sky,
    Or counted the large stars on the purple dark,
    The while I wasted, wasted and took no thought,
    In drowsed entrancement caught; —
    Until one noon a wave washed over me,
    Breathed low a sobbing sigh,
    Foamed indolently, and passed on;
    And then I knew my empery was gone;
    As I, too, soon must go.
    Nor was I ill content to have it so.

    Another night
    Gloomed o'er my sight,
    With cloud, and flurries of warm, wild rain.
    Another day,
    Dawning delectably
    With amber and scarlet stain,
    Swept on its way,
    Glowing and shimmering with heavy heat.
    A lazing tuna rose
    And nosed me curiously,
    And shouldered me aside in brusque disdain,
    So had I fallen from my high estate.
    A foraging gull
    Stooped over me, touched me with webbed pink feet,
    And wheeled and skreeled away,
    Indignant at the chill.

    Last I became
    A little glancing globe of cold
    That slid and sparkled on the slow-pulsed swell.
    And then my fragile, scintillating frame
    Dissolved in ecstasy
    Of many coloured light,
    And I breathed up my soul into the air
    And merged forever in the all-solvent sea.