The White Rover

THEY called the little schooner the White Rover,
When they lightly launched her on the brimming tide;
Staunch and trim she was to sail the broad seas over,
And with cheers they spread her snowy canvas wide;
And a thing of beauty, forth she fared to wrestle
With the wild, uncertain ocean, far and near,
And no evil thing befell the graceful vessel,
And she sailed in storm and sunshine many a year.
But at last a rumor grew that she was haunted,
That up her slender masts her sails had flown
Unhelped by human hands, as if enchanted,
As she rocked upon her moorings all alone.
Howe’er that be — one day in winter weather,
When the bitter north was raging at its worst,
And wind and cold vexed the roused sea together,
Till Dante’s frozen hell seemed less accurst,
Two fishermen, to draw their trawls essaying,
Seized by the hurricane that plowed the bay,
Were swept across the waste; and hardly weighing
Death’s chance, the Rover reefed and bore away
To save them,— reached them, shuddering where they waited
Their quick destruction, tossing white and dumb,
And caught them from perdition; then, belated,
Strove to return the rough way she had come.
But there was no returning! Fierce as lightning
The eager cold grew keener, more intense.
Across her homeward track the billows, whitening,
In crested mountains rolling, drove her thence;
Till her brave crew, benumbed, gave up the battle,
Clad in a mail of ice that weighed like lead;
They heard the crusted blocks and rigging rattle,
They saw the sails like sheets of iron spread;
And powerless before the gale they drifted,
Till swiftly dropped the black and hopeless night.
The wild tornado never lulled nor shifted,
But drove them toward the coast upon their right,
And flung the frozen schooner, all sail standing,
Stiff as an iceberg on the icy shore; And half alive, her torpid people, landing,
Crept to the light-house, and were safe once more.
But what befell the vessel, standing solemn
Through that tremendous night of cold and storm,
Upon the frost-locked land, a frigid column,
That glittered ’neath the stars, a ghostly form?
None ever saw her more! The tide upbore her,
Released her fastened keel, and ere the day,
Without a guide, and all the world before her,
The sad, forsaken Rover sailed away.
Yet sometimes, when in summer twilight blending,
Sunset and moonrise mingle their rich light,
Or when on noonday mists the sun is spending
His glory, till they glimmer thin and white,
Upon the dim horizon melting, gleaming,
Slender, ethereal, like a lovely ghost
Soft looming, in the hazy distance dreaming,
I seem to see the vessel that was lost.
Celia Thaxter.