A Parable of Shipwreck

IN two different senses I live on the seashore, with such advantages as appertain to one whose dwelling overlooks the “ road of the bold.” Night and day, the sound of rhythmic waters never wholly dies away, however oblivious the land breeze blows, however serene the heavens above. Constantly comes the murmur of the sea, — like a Greek chorus to all other vocalities in nature. I do not myself adventure upon the sea, but it memorializes me, with its never silent voice, of those going down, thereto, in ships. In like manner, though I live sufficiently remote from the stirring activities of the world (which is as the sea to the shore of a quiet life), there, nevertheless, from time to time, come thrilling monitions from that outer ocean where triumph, hope, defeat, and despair, meet in counter currents, and where both sturdy and fragile craft drive onward before their fates. Listening attentively to the voices of wind and wave from off the great deep of human action and motive, I sometimes gather vague rumors of seagoing disaster, as in the following Parable of Shipwreck : —

There were shipmasters three, whom tempest drove ;
They needs must lighten freight and treasuretrove :
So, each the Ocean’s deity appeased,
Who from impending doom the vessel seized.
Of these shipmasters three, whate’er one gave,
As flotsam, lightly fled upon the wave ;
And, blent with sea foam, it was tossed ashore,
To be some wrecked or exiled mortal’s store.
Of these shipmasters three, the second cast
Such heavy treasure forth, it straightway passed,
As jetsam, down a rift in Ocean’s floor, —
Forgotten and unsought forevermore !
The third shipmaster to his treasure tied
A weight beneath ; above, a floating guide :
As ligan, safe his call it shall await —
Or if he early come, or tarry late !