Poems for the Sea/The Brother

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Poems of the Sea, 1850 - The Brother.jpg


The good ship on an iceberg struck
   Where northern seas ran high,
And midnight in its ebon veil
   Encircled earth and sky,
It struck! what moment was there then
   To waste in sorrow's strife,
When but one bold adventurous rush
   Remained 'tween death and life!

The boat! the boat! it launches forth
   Upon the mountain wave,
And shrieking throngs, with frantic haste
   Essay its power to save;
A fragile thing, it darkly strives
   Amid the wrathful tide,
And deep, unutter'd pangs are theirs
   Who leave that vessel's side.

A moonbeam pierced the heavy cloud!
   Alas! what sight was there!
Who stood on that forsaken deck
   In calm and mute despair!
A fair, young maiden, just arous'd
   From slumber soft and dear,
Stretched her white arms in wild amaze,
   But found no helper near.

In sad adieu, her hand she wav'd
   As if some friend she blest,
Then closer drew her snowy robe
   Around her gentle breast,

And upward, to the darkened heavens
   Imploring glances cast,
While her rich curls profusely fell,
   And floated on the blast.

Then sudden, in the thronging boat,
   With agonizing scream,
Up sprang a noble, youthful form
   As from a wildering dream,
"Oh Sister! Sister!" echoed loud
   His shrill, unearthly cry,
"How dare I bear a brother's name
   Yet leave thee thus to die?"

He plunged, the crested wave he ruled,
   He climbed the cloven deck,
And clasped her, as the thundering surge
   Swept o'er the sinking wreck.
"Sweet sister, 'tis thy brother's voice,
   His cheek is pressed to thine,
One cradle-bed was ours, my love,
   Thy last, dread couch be mine.

The placid Moon with pitying eye,
   Look'd lone and silent down,
Encircling them with holy light,
   As with a martyr's crown,
Then shrank within a fleecy cloud,—
   Hoarse shrieked the impetuous main,
The deep sea closed, and where were they?
   Go ask the angel train!

Ah! dauntless hearts that night were whelmed
   Beneath the billowy high,
And temples white with honored years,
   And woman's love-lit eye,
And clinging to its mother's breast,
   In visions soft and deep,
Unwakened innocence went down
   Amid the pearls to sleep.

The eye that saw that iceberg dread
   Come drifting darkly down,
Destruction in its wintry breath
   And on its monster crown;

The ear that heard the deadly crash,
   And thunder of the wave,
Can never lose that bitter trace
   But in the oblivious grave.

The rescued man to listening groups
   May tell the mournful tale,
And fond affection clasp his hand,
   And childhood's cheek grow pale,
While the sad memory of their fate
   Brother and sister dear,
Who with that buried ship went down
   Shall wake the pitying tear.