Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/196

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
AT SEA IN 1876.

eight or nine miles, returning in very good spirits. At 3 a.m., on the following day, he awoke "as well as ever he was," but on sitting up, a dreadful pain seized his chest. He dressed himself, however, and went down-stairs, moving with accustomed ease. At nine o'clock, sitting alone "in his arm-chair, wrapped in his gown," he died silently.

From The Philadelphia Press.

AT SEA IN 1876.



Ten days and nights our gallant ship
Sped o'er a lone and trackless way,
And we had watched the seagulls skip
Like arrows o'er the wave, and dip
Their wings into its foam, for they
Were children of the sea, at play.


We were a hundred there, and more,
From many lands, yet loved but one;
And we had longed to see the shore,
The far-off mists from Labrador,
To hear some distant evening gun
Proclaim the day, the voyage, done.


It was so quiet there — at last
One, bolder than the others, led,
Why is this silence? let the past
Be of things that cannot last;
We are the living, not the dead.
"Give us a song," the captain said.


"Is there among us, none, not one,
With the divine Promethean fire,
Can sing of deeds most nobly done —
Of sieges lost, of battles won,
Of knightly sons of knightlier sire,
And wake to life the sleeping lyre?


I do bethink me now, there stood
Amid the forward decks to-day,
A harpist, old, of silent mood;
I did not think there ever could,
Be human form so weird, so gray."
"Bring him," the others said, "to play."


And soon an old man tottered in
To where the lamps were all aglow:
The boatswain bore his harp for him —
For he had thought it well a sin
That one so old should helpless go.
'Tis good we treat our aged so.


"Good friends," the boatswain said, "I bring
The poet of the ship to you.
Well he can play, and sweetly sing
To this his harp, whose every string,
Though tuned oft, yet, tuned' anew,
May cheer you for an hour or two."

The Harpist.


"Give me the harp," the singer said,
And touched his weird hand to the lyre;
And, lo! the eye that seemed so dead,
The form, whence life had almost fled,
Brightened anew with living fire.
Forgot was age, forgot was pain;
The old man lived the boy again.


He swept the cords through many a strain,
And sung of youth and love, till we,
Like followers in his knightly train,
Wept o'er his touching minstrelsy.
Is it not true that man may be
Made angels by some melody?


Have we not lived at times above
The sorrowing earth, and its complaints,
On hearing some sweet tale of love,
Some seraph song of dying saints?
Has not some poet said that we
Are chords in God's great harmony?

. . . . . . . .


"Enough — enough" — the harpist said.
I sing no more of love's young dream,
Of knightly deeds, of lovers wed,
Of hours, of days, too quickly sped,
Mine is another, nobler theme, —
My Country, born midst blood and tears,
Grown sacred by its hundred years.
'Tis not so long ago that men —
Brave men, who feared not storm nor sea,
Crossed to the new-born land of Penn,
Without one thought but to be free:
Brave men, good men, as well, were they
Who fearless sought the dang'rous way
To Plymouth Rock, to Florida;
Men who could fight, as well as pray
Nor asked what else their fate might be
In that fair land beyond the sea,
So that it brought them liberty.


They came — and soon their axes rung
By many a lake and tangled wood;
And midst their labors, lo! they sung,
For God was in their solitude.
Their struggles none but he may tell,
Who watched them on their dang'rous way;
How by the lurking foe they fell,
Yet trusted him, and said, '‘Tis well,
He leads us to the coming day.'