Edmund Clarence Stedman

1833-1908

 

Spoken At Sea

by Edmund Clarence Stedman

The log-book of the steamship Virginia.

Twelve hundred miles and more
From the stormy English shore,
All aright, the seventh night,
On her course our vessel bore.
Her lantern shone ahead,
And the green lamp and the red
To starboard and to larboard
Shot their light.

Close on the midnight call
What a mist began to fall,
And to hide the ocean wide,
And to wrap us in a pall!
Beneath its folds we past:
Hidden were shroud and mast,
And faces, in near places
Side by side.

Sudden there also fell
A summons like a knell:
Every ear the words could hear, --
Whence spoken, who could tell?
What ship is this? where bound?
Gods, what a dismal sound!
A stranger, and in danger,
Sailing near.

The Virginia, on her route
From the Mersey, seven days out;
Fore and aft, our trusty craft
Carries a thousand souls, about.

All these souls may travel still,
Westward bound, if so they will;
Bodies rather, I would gather!

Loud he laughed.

Who is 't that hails so rude,
And for what this idle mood?
Words like these, on midnight seas,
Bode no friend nor fortune good!

Care not to know my name,
But whence I lastly came,
At leisure, for my pleasure,
Ask the breeze.

To the people of your port
Bear a message of this sort:
Say, I haste unto the West,
A sharer of their sport.
Let them sweep the houses clean:
Their fathers did, I ween,
When hearing of my nearing
As a guest!

As by Halifax ye sail
And the steamship England hail,
Of me, then, bespeak her men;
She took my latest mail, --
'T was somewhere near this spot:
Doubtless they 've not forgot.
Remind them (if you find them!)
Once again.

Yet that you all may know
Who is 't that hailed you so,
(Slow he saith, and under breath,)
I leave my sign below!

Then from our crowded hold
A dreadful cry uprolled,
Unbroken, and the token, --
It was Death.

Source:

The Blameless Prince, And Other Poems
Copyright 1869
Fields, Osgood, and Co., Boston
 
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