Skipper Ben

SAILING away !
Losing the breath of the shores in May,—
Dropping down from the beautiful bay,
Over the sea-slope vast and gray !
And the Skipper’s eyes with a mist are blind ;
For thoughts rush up on the rising wind
Of a gentle face that he leaves behind,
And a heart that throbs through the fog-bank dim,
Thinking of him.
Far into night
He watches the gleam of the lessening light
Fixed on the dangerous island-height
That bars the harbor he loves from sight ;
And he wishes at dawn he could tell the tale
Of how they had weathered the southwest gale,
To brighten the cheek that had grown so pale
With a sleepless night among spectres grim, —
Terrors for him.
Yo-heave-yo !
Here ’s the Bank where the fishermen go !
Over the schooner’s sides they throw
Tackle and bait to the deeps below.
And Skipper Ben in the water sees,
When its ripples curl to the light land-breeze,
Something that stirs like his apple-trees,
And two soft eyes that beneath them swim,
Lifted to him.
Hear the wind roar,
And the rain through the slit sails tear and pour !
“Steady ! we ’ll scud by the Cape Ann shore,—
Then hark to the Beverly bells once more ! ”
And each man worked with the will of ten ;
While up in the rigging, now and then,
The lightning glared in the face of Ben,
Turned to the black horizon’s rim,
Scowling on him.
Into his brain
Burned with the iron of hopeless pain,
Into thoughts that grapple and eyes that strain,
Pierces the memory, cruel and vain !
Never again shall he walk at ease
Under his blossoming apple-trees
That whisper and sway in the sunset-breeze,
While the soft eyes float where the sea-gulls skim,
Gazing with him.
How they went down
Never was known in the still old town:
Nobody guessed how the fisherman brown,
With the look of despair that was half a frown,
Faced his fate in the furious night,
Faced the mad billows with hunger white,
Just within hail of the beacon-light,
That shone on a woman sweet and trim,
Waiting for him.
Beverly bells,
Ring to the tide as it ebbs and swells !
His was the anguish a moment tells, —
The passionate sorrow Death quickly knells ;
But the wearing wash of a lifelong woe
Is left for the desolate heart to know,
Whose tides with the dull years come and go,
Till hope drifts dead to its stagnant brim,
Thinking of him.