Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Narrative and Legendary Poems
The Three Bells
 
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        5
  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:        10
“Our stout Three Bells of Glasgow
  Shall lay till daylight by!”
 
Hour after hour crept slowly,
  Yet on the heaving swells
Tossed up and down the ship-lights,        15
  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;        20
 
And the captain from her taffrail
  Sent down his hopeful cry:
“Take heart! Hold on!” he shouted;
  “The Three Bells shall lay by!”
 
All night across the waters        25
  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,        30
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,        35
  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!

  1872.
        40
 
 
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