Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE OLD SEAPORT, by DAVID MACBETH MOIR

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THE OLD SEAPORT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When winds were wailing round me
Last Line: The wild seas made reply.
Alternate Author Name(s): Delta
Subject(s): Culross, Perthsire, Scotland; Death; Funerals - At Sea; Sailing & Sailors; Sea Gulls; Seashore; Dead, The; Burials At Sea; Beach; Coast; Shore


WHEN winds were wailing round me,
And Day, with closing eye,
Scowled from beneath the sullen clouds
Of pale November's sky,—
In downcast meditation
All silently I stood,
Gazing the wintry ocean's
Rough, bleak, and barren flood.


A place more wild and lonely
Was nowhere to be seen;
The caverned sea-rocks beetled o'er
The billows rushing green;
There was no sound from aught around,
Save, 'mid the echoing caves,
The plashing and the dashing
Of the melancholy waves.


High, 'mid the lowering waste of sky,
The grey gulls flew in swarms;
And far beneath the surf upheaved
The sea-weed's tangly arms;
The face of Nature in a pall
Death-shrouded seemed to be,
As by St Serf's lone tomb arose
The dirges of the sea.


In twilight's shadowy scowling,
Not far remote there lay
Thine old dim harbour, Culross,
Smoky, and worn, and grey;
Through far-back generations
Thy blackened piles had stood,
And, though the abodes of living men,
All looked like solitude.


Of hoar decrepitude all spake,
And ruin and decay;
Of fierce, wild times departed;
Of races passed away;
Of quaint, grim vessels beating up
Against the whelming breeze;
Of tempest-stricken mariners,
Far on the foamy seas.


It spake of swart grey-headed men,
Now dust within their graves,
Who sailed with Barton or with Spens,
To breast the trampling waves;
And how, in shallops picturesque,
Unawed they drifted forth,
Directed by the one bright star,
That points the stormy North.


And how, when windows rattled,
And strong pines bowed to earth,
Pale wives, with trembling children mute,
Would cower beside the hearth,—
All sadly musing on the ships,
That, buffeting the breeze,
Held but a fragile plank betwixt
The sailor and the seas.


How welcome their return to home!
What wondrous tales they told,
Of birds with rainbow plumage,
And trees with fruits of gold;
Of perils in the wilderness,
Beside the lion's den;
And huts beneath the giant palms,
Where dwelt the painted men!


'Mid melancholy fancies
My spirit loved to stray,
Back thro' the mists of hooded Eld,
Lone wandering, far away;
When dim-eyed Superstition
Upraised her eldritch croon,
And witches held their orgies
Beneath the waning moon.


Yes! through Tradition's twilight,
To days had Fancy flown
When Canmore or when Kenneth dree'd
The Celt's uneasy crown;
When men were bearded savages,
An unenlightened horde,
'Mid which gleamed Cunning's scapulaire,
And War's unshrinking sword.


And, in their rusty hauberks,
Throng'd past the plaided bands;—
And slanting lay the Norsemen's keels
On ocean's dreary sands;—
And, on the long flat moorlands,
The cairn, with lichens grey,
Mark'd where their souls shriek'd forth in blood,
On Battle's iron day.


Between me and the sea, loomed out
The ivied Abbey old,
In whose grim vaults the Bruces kneel
In marble quaint and cold;
And where, inurned, lies hid the heart
Of young Kinloss deplored,
Whose blood, by Belgium's Oster-Scheldt,
Stain'd Sackville's ruthless sword.


Waned all these trancèd visions;—
But, on my eerie sight,
Remained the old dim seaport
Beneath the scowl of night;
The sea-mews for their island cliffs
Had left the homeless sky,
And only to the dirgeful blast
The wild seas made reply.

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