The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier

By John Greenleaf Whittier | Go to book overview

Let young eyes watch from Neck and Point,
And sea-worn elders prays,--
The ghost of what was once a ship
Is sailing up the bay!

From gray sea-fog, from icy drift,
From peril and from pain,
The home-bound fisher greets thy lights,
O hundred-harbored Maine!
But many a keel shall seaward turn,
And many a sail outstand,
When, tall and white, the Dead Ship looms
Against the dusk of land.

She rounds the headland's bristling pines;
She threads the isle-set bay;
No spur of breeze can speed her on,
Nor ebb of tide delay.
Old men still walk the Isle of Orr
Who tell her date and name,
Old shipwrights sit in Freeport yards
Who hewed her oaken frame.

What weary doom of baffled quest,
Thou sad sea-ghost, is thine?
What makes thee in the haunts of home
A wonder and a sign?
No foot is on thy silent deck?
Upon thy helm no hand;
No ripple hath the soundless wind
That smites thee from the land!

For never comes the ship to port,
Howe'er the breeze may be;
Just when she nears the waiting shore
She drifts again to sea.
No tack of sail, nor turn of helm,
Nor sheer of veering side;
Stern-fore she drives to sea and night,
Against the wind and tide.

In vain o'er Harpswell Neck the star
Of evening guides her in;
In vain for her the lamps are lit
Within thy tower, Seguin!
In vain the harbor-boat shall hail,
In vain the pilot call;
No hand shall reef her spectral sail,
Or let her anchor fall.

Shake, brown old wives, with dreary joy,
Your gray-head hints of ill;
And, over sick-beds whispering low,
Your prophecies fulfil.
Some home amid yon birchen trees
Shall drape its door with woe;
And slowly where the Dead Ship sails,
The burial boat shall row!

From Wolf Neck and from Flying Point,
From island and from main,
From sheltered cove and tided creek,
Shall glide the funeral train.
The dead-boat with the bearers four,
The mourners at her stern,--
And one shall go the silent way
Who shall no more return!

And men shall sigh, and women weep,
Whose dear ones pale and pine,
And sadly over sunset seas
Await the ghostly sign.
They know not that its sails are filled
By pity's tender breath,
Nor see the Angel at the helm
Who steers the Ship of Death!

"Chill as a down-east breeze should be,"
The Book-man said. "A ghostly touch
The legend has. I'm glad to see
Your flying Yankee beat the Dutch."
"Well, here is something of the sort
Which one midsummer day I caught
In Narragansett Bay, for lack of fish."
"We wait," the Traveller said; "serve hot or
cold your dish."


THE PALATINE.

LEAGUES north, as fly the gull and auk,
Point Judith watches with eye of hawk;
Leagues south, thy beacon flames, Montauk!

Lonely and wind-shorn, wood-forsaken,
With never a tree for Spring to waken,
For tryst of lovers or farewells taken,

Circled by waters that never freeze,
Beaten by billow and swept by breeze
, Lieth the island of Manisees,

Set at the mouth of the Sound to hold
The coast lights up on its turret old,
Yellow with moss and sea-fog mould.

Dreary the land when gust and sleet
At its doors and windows howl and beat,
And Winter laughs at its fires of peat!

But in summer time, when pool and pond,
Held in the laps of valley fond,
Are blue as the glimpses of sea beyond;

When the hills are sweet with brier-rose,
And, hid in the warm, soft dells, unclose
Flowers the mainland rarely knows;

When boats to their morning fishing go,
And, held to the wind and slanting low,
Whitening and darkening the small sails show,--

Then is that lonely island fair;
And the pale health-seeker findeth there
The wine of life in its pleasant air.

No greener valleys the sun invite,
On smoother beaches no sea-birds light,
No blue waves shatter to foam more white!

There, circling ever their narrow range,
Quaint tradition and legend strange
Live on unchallenged, and know no change.

Old wives spinning their webs of tow,
Or rocking weirdly to and fro
In and out the peat's dull glow,

And old men mending their nets of twine,
Talk together of dream and sign,
Talk of the lost ship Palatine,--

The ship that, a hundred years before,
Freighted deep with its goodly store,
In the gales of the equinox went ashore.

The eager islanders one by one
Counted the shots of her signal gun,
And heard the crash when she drove right on!

Into the teeth of death she sped:
(May God forgive the hands that fed
The false lights over the rocky Head!)

O men and brothers! what sights were there!
White upturned faces, hands stretched in prayer!
Where waves had pity, could ye not spare?

-225-

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The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Note by the Author v
  • Proem. vi
  • Contents vii
  • Mogg Megone. - 1835. 11
  • The Bridal of Pennacook. - 1848. 20
  • Legendary. - 1846. 26
  • Voices of Freedom. - From 1833 to 1848. 38
  • The Knight of St. John. 65
  • Songs of Labor and other Poems. - 1850. 86
  • The Chapel of the Hermits and Other Poems. - 1852. 115
  • Question of Life. 119
  • The Panorama and Other Poems. - 1856. 131
  • Ballads. 135
  • Home Ballads. - 1860. 161
  • Poems and Lyrics. 173
  • In War Time. 190
  • Ballads. 197
  • Occasional Poems. 203
  • A Winter Idyl. - 1865. 209
  • The Tent on the Beach, And Other Poems. - 1867 215
  • National Lyrics. - A. D. 1154-1864. 227
  • Occasional Poems. 230
  • Among the Hills, And Other Poems. - 1868. 235
  • Miscellaneous Poems. 239
  • Miriam, And Other Poems. 246
  • Miscellaneous Poems. 250
  • Poems for Public Occasions. 255
  • The Pennsylvania Pilgrim, And Other Poems. 257
  • The Pageant. 263
  • Hazel Blossoms 271
  • Poems By Elizabeth H. Whittier. 281
  • The Vision of Echard, And Other Poems. 285
  • Response. - 1877. 298
  • Inscriptions. 311
  • Notes. 313
  • Index. 323
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