Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Oceanica
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI.  1876–79.
 
Miscellaneous: The Ocean
The Shipwreck
John Wilson (1720–1789)
 
(From The Isle of Palms)

BUT list! a low and moaning sound
At distance heard, like a spirit’s song,
And now it reigns above, around,
As if it called the ship along.
The moon is sunk; and a clouded gray        5
Declares that her course is run,
And, like a god who brings the day,
Up mounts the glorious sun.
Soon as his light has warmed the seas,
From the parting cloud fresh blows the breeze;        10
And that is the spirit whose well-known song
Makes the vessel to sail in joy along.
No fears hath she;—her giant form
O’er wrathful surge, through blackening storm,
Majestically calm would go        15
Mid the deep darkness white as snow!
But gently now the small waves glide
Like playful lambs o’er a mountain’s side.
So stately her bearing, so proud her array,
The main she will traverse for ever and aye.        20
Many ports will exult at the gleam of her mast!—
Hush! hush! thou vain dreamer! this hour is her last.
Five hundred souls in one instant of dread
Are hurried o’er the deck;
And fast the miserable ship        25
Becomes a lifeless wreck.
Her keel hath struck on a hidden rock,
Her planks are torn asunder,
And down come her masts with a reeling shock,
And a hideous crash like thunder.        30
Her sails are draggled in the brine
That gladdened late the skies,
And her pendant that kissed the fair moonshine
Down many a fathom lies.
Her beauteous sides, whose rainbow hues        35
Gleamed softly from below,
And flung a warm and sunny flush
O’er the wreaths of murmuring snow,
To the coral rocks are hurrying down
To sleep amid colors as bright as their own.        40
 
  O, many a dream was in the ship
An hour before her death;
And sights of home with sighs disturbed
The sleepers’ long-drawn breath.
Instead of the murmur of the sea        45
The sailor heard the humming tree
Alive through all its leaves,
The hum of the spreading sycamore
That grows before his cottage-door,
And the swallow’s song in the eaves.        50
His arms enclosed a blooming boy,
Who listened with tears of sorrow and joy
To the dangers his father had passed;
And his wife,—by turns she wept and smiled,
As she looked on the father of her child        55
Returned to her heart at last.—
He wakes at the vessel’s sudden roll,
And the rush of waters is in his soul.
Astounded the reeling deck he paces,
Mid hurrying forms and ghastly faces;—        60
The whole ship’s crew are there!
Wailings around and overhead,
Brave spirits stupefied or dead,
And madness and despair.
 
  Leave not the wreck, thou cruel boat!        65
While yet ’t is thine to save,
And angel-hands will bid thee float
Uninjured o’er the wave,
Though whirlpools yawn across thy way,
And storms, impatient for their prey,        70
Around thee fiercely rave!
Vain all the prayers of pleading eyes,
Of outcry loud and humble sighs,
Hands clasped, or wildly tossed on high
To bless or curse in agony!        75
Despair and resignation vain!
Away like a strong-winged bird she flies,
That heeds not human miseries,
And far off in the sunshine dies
Like a wave of the restless main!        80
Hush! hush! Ye wretches left behind!
Silence becomes the brave, resigned
To unexpected doom.
*        *        *        *        *
  Now is the ocean’s bosom bare,
Unbroken as the floating air;        85
The ship hath melted quite away,
Like a struggling dream at break of day.
No image meets my wandering eye
But the new-risen sun, and the sunny sky.
Though the night-shades are gone, yet a vapor dull        90
Bedims the waves so beautiful;
While a low and melancholy moan
Mourns for the glory that hath flown.
 
 
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