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English Poetry. Edmund Clarence Stedman. The Lord’s-Day Gale. Эдмунд Кларенс Стедман.






Edmund Clarence Stedman (Эдмунд Кларенс Стедман)

The Lord’s-Day Gale

Bay St. Lawrence, August, 1873

In Gloucester port lie fishing craft,—
⁠More stanch and trim were never seen:
They are sharp before and sheer abaft,
⁠And true their lines the masts between.
Along the wharves of Gloucester Town
Their fares are lightly handed down,
⁠And the laden flakes to landward lean.

Well know the men each cruising-ground,
⁠And where the cod and mackerel be;
Old Eastern Point the schooners round
⁠And leave Cape Ann on the larboard lee:
Sound are the planks, the hearts are bold,
That brave December's surges cold
⁠On Georges' shoals in the outer sea.

And some must sail to the banks far north
⁠And set their trawls for the hungry cod,—
In the ghostly fog grope back and forth
⁠By shrouded paths no foot hath trod;
Upon the crews the ice-winds blow,
The bitter sleet, the frozen snow,—
⁠Their lives are in the hand of God!

New England! New England!
⁠Needs sail they must, so brave and poor,
Or June be warm or Winter storm,
⁠Lest a wolf gnaw through the cottage-door!
Three weeks at home, three long months gone,
While the patient goodwives sleep alone,
⁠And wake to hear the breakers roar.

The Grand Bank gathers in its dead,—
⁠The deep sea-sand is their winding-sheet;
Who does not Georges' billows dread
⁠That dash together the drifting fleet?
Who does not long to hear, in May,
The pleasant wash of Saint Lawrence Bay,
⁠The fairest ground where fishermen meet?

There the west wave holds the red sunlight
⁠Till the bells at home are rung for nine:
Short, short the watch, and calm the night;
⁠The fiery northern streamers shine;
The eastern sky anon is gold,
And winds from piny forests old
⁠Scatter the white mists off the brine.

The Province craft with ours at morn
⁠Are mingled when the vapors shift;
All day, by breeze and current borne,
⁠Across the bay the sailors drift;
With toll and seine its wealth they win,—
The dappled, silvery spoil come in
⁠Fast as their hands can haul and lift.

New England! New England!
⁠Thou lovest well thine ocean main!
It spreadeth its locks among thy rocks,
⁠And long against thy heart hath lain;
Thy ships upon its bosom ride
And feel the heaving of its tide;
⁠To thee its secret speech is plain.

Cape Breton and Edward Isle between,
⁠In strait and gulf the schooners lay;
The sea was all at peace, I ween,
⁠The night before that August day;
Was never a Gloucester skipper there,
But thought erelong, with a right good fare,
⁠To sail for home from Saint Lawrence Bay.

New England! New England!
⁠Thy giant's love was turned to hate!
The winds control his fickle soul,
⁠And in his wrath he hath no mate.
Thy shores his angry scourges tear,
And for thy children in his care
⁠The sudden tempests lie in wait.

The East Wind gathered all unknown,—
⁠A thick sea-cloud his course before;
He left by night the frozen zone
⁠And smote the cliffs of Labrador;
He lashed the coasts on either hand,
And betwixt the Cape and Newfoundland
⁠Into the Bay his armies pour.

He caught our helpless cruisers there
⁠As a gray wolf harries the huddling fold;
A sleet—a darkness—filled the air,
⁠A shuddering wave before it rolled:
That Lord's-day morn it was a breeze,—
At noon, a blast that shook the seas,—
⁠At night,—a wind of Death took hold!

It leapt across the Breton bar,
⁠A death-wind from the stormy East!
It scarred the land, and whirled afar
⁠The sheltering thatch of man and beast;
It mingled rick and roof and tree,
And like a besom swept the sea,
⁠And churned the waters into yeast.

From Saint Paul's light to Edward Isle
⁠A thousand craft it smote amain;
And some against it strove the while,
⁠And more to make a port were fain:
The mackerel-gulls flew screaming past,
And the stick that bent to the noonday blast
⁠Was split by the sundown hurricane.

Woe, woe to those whom the islands pen!
⁠In vain they shun the double capes:
Cruel are the reefs of Magdalen;
⁠The Wolf's white fang what prey escapes?
The Grin'stone grinds the bones of some,
And Coffin Isle is craped with foam;—
⁠On Deadman's shore are fearful shapes!

O, what can live on the open sea,
⁠Or moored in port the gale outride?
The very craft that at anchor be
⁠Are dragged along by the swollen tide!
The great storm-wave came rolling west,
And tossed the vessels on its crest:
⁠The ancient bounds its might defied!

The ebb to check it had no power;
⁠The surf ran up an untold height;
It rose, nor yielded, hour by hour,
⁠A night and day, a day and night;
Far up the seething shores it cast
The wrecks of hull and spar and mast,
⁠The strangled crews,—a woful sight!

There were twenty and more of Breton sail
⁠Fast anchored on one mooring-ground;
Each lay within his neighbor's hail
⁠When the thick of the tempest closed them round:
All sank at once in the gaping sea,—
Somewhere on the shoals their corses be,
⁠The foundered hulks, and the seamen drowned.

On reef and bar our schooners drove
⁠Before the wind, before the swell;
By the steep sand-cliffs their ribs were stove,—
⁠Long, long, their crews the tale shall tell!
Of the Gloucester fleet are wrecks threescore;
Of the Province sail two hundred more
⁠Were stranded in that tempest fell.

The bedtime bells in Gloucester Town
⁠That Sabbath night rang soft and clear;
The sailors' children laid them down,—
⁠Dear Lord! their sweet prayers couldst thou hear?
'T is said that gently blew the winds;
The goodwives, through the seaward blinds,
⁠Looked down the bay and had no fear.

New England! New England!
⁠Thy ports their dauntless seamen mourn;
The twin capes yearn for their return
⁠Who never shall be thither borne;
Their orphans whisper as they meet;
The homes are dark in many a street,
⁠And women move in weeds forlorn.

And wilt thou quail, and dost thou fear?
⁠Ah no! though widows' cheeks are pale,
The lads shall say: "Another year,
⁠And we shall be of age to sail!"
And the mothers' hearts shall fill with pride,
Though tears drop fast for them who died
⁠When the fleet was wrecked in the Lord's-Day gale.

Edmund Clarence Stedman’s other poems:

  1. Cousin Lucrece
  2. The Monument of Greeley
  3. “Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos?”
  4. Ariel
  5. Sumter




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