Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
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Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
 
Robert Barry Coffin. 1826–1888
 
164. Ships at Sea
 
I HAVE ships that went to sea 
  More than fifty years ago; 
None have yet come home to me, 
  But are sailing to and fro. 
I have seen them in my sleep,         5
Plunging through the shoreless deep, 
With tattered sails and battered hulls, 
While around them screamed the gulls, 
    Flying low, flying low. 
  
I have wondered why they stayed  10
  From me, sailing round the world; 
And I 've said, "I 'm half afraid 
  That their sails will ne'er be furled." 
Great the treasures that they hold, 
Silks, and plumes, and bars of gold;  15
While the spices which they bear 
Fill with fragrance all the air, 
    As they sail, as they sail. 
  
Ah! each sailor in the port 
  Knows that I have ships at sea,  20
Of the waves and winds the sport, 
  And the sailors pity me. 
Oft they come and with me walk, 
Cheering me with hopeful talk, 
Till I put my fears aside,  25
And, contented, watch the tide 
    Rise and fall, rise and fall. 
  
I have waited on the piers, 
  Gazing for them down the bay, 
Days and nights for many years,  30
  Till I turned heart-sick away. 
But the pilots, when they land, 
Stop and take me by the hand, 
Saying, "You will live to see 
Your proud vessels come from sea,  35
    One and all, one and all." 
  
So I never quite despair, 
  Nor let hope or courage fail; 
And some day, when skies are fair, 
  Up the bay my ships will sail.  40
I shall buy then all I need,— 
Prints to look at, books to read, 
Horses, wines, and works of art,— 
Everything except a heart. 
    That is lost, that is lost.  45
  
Once when I was pure and young, 
  Richer, too, than I am now, 
Ere a cloud was o'er me flung, 
  Or a wrinkle creased my brow, 
There was one whose heart was mine;  50
But she 's something now divine, 
And though come my ships from sea, 
They can bring no heart to me 
    Evermore, evermore. 
 
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