Page:Poems for the Sea.djvu/33

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


"REEF SAILS."[1]



I saw a bark, with streamers gay
   O'er Hymen's waters[2] sweep,
Profusion[3] dancing at the helm,
   And Prudence fast asleep,—
Yet not by Labour's ancient chart
   A steady course it bent,
But fed the waves with ether's[4] gold
   When all its own was spent.
Reef sails![5] Reef sails!—a whirlpool's nigh
   The thundering rapids sound,—
Ho!—change your reckoning, ere ye sink
   In gulfs profound.

  1. This poem, which uses maritime metaphors, is about marriage and counsels thrift and restraint in marriage. Sigourney and her husband experienced difficult financial times and it seems likely that this counsel was born of her experiences. The poem also appears in Whisper to a Bride. (Wikisource contributor note)
  2. This is a reference to Hymenaios, a Greek god of marriage ceremonies. Hymen's waters is a reference to marriage.
  3. Lavish or imprudent expenditure; extravagance.
  4. Ether here refers to the skies or the heavens
  5. Reef here means to bring down part or all of the sails. In stormy weather a sailing ship's masts could be torn off if the sails were not brought down or made smaller.