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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE COASTERS, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Overloaded, undermanned / trusting to a lee
Last Line: From cruz to quoddy head.
Subject(s): Boats; Nature

Overloaded, undermanned,
Trusting to a lee,
Playing I-spy with the land,
Jockeying the sea --
That's the way the Coaster goes,
Through calm and hurricane:
Everywhere the tide flows,
Everywhere the wind blows,
From Mexico to Maine.
O East and West! O North and South!
We ply along the shore,
From famous Fundy's foggy mouth,
From voes of Labrador;
Through pass and strait, on sound and sea,
From port to port we stand --
The rocks of Race fade on our lee,
We hail the Rio Grande.
Our sails are never lost to sight;
On every gulf and bay
They gleam, in winter wind-cloud white,
In summer rain-cloud gray.
We hold the coast with slippery grip;
We dare from cape to cape:
Our leaden fingers feel the dip
And trace the channel's shape.
We sail or bide as serves the tide;
Inshore we cheat its flow,
And side by side at anchor ride
When stormy head-winds blow.
We are the offspring of the shoal,
The hucksters of the sea;
From custom theft and pilot toll
Thank God that we are free.
Legging on and off the beach,
Drifting up the strait,
Fluking down the river reach,
Towing through the gate --
That's the way the Coaster goes,
Flirting with the gale:
Everywhere the tide flows,
Everywhere the wind blows,
From York to Beavertail.
Here and there to get a load,
Freighting anything;
Running off with spanker stowed,
Loafing wing-a-wing --
That's the way the Coaster goes,
Chumming with the land:
Everywhere the tide flows,
Everywhere the wind blows,
From Ray to Rio Grande.
We split the swell where rings the bell
On many a shallow's edge,
We take our flight past many a light
That guards the deadly ledge;
We greet Montauk across the foam,
We work the Vineyard Sound,
The Diamond sees us running home
The Georges outward bound;
Absecom hears our canvas beat
When tacked off Brigantine;
We raise the Gulls with lifted sheet,
Pass wing-and-wing between.
Off Monomoy we fight the gale,
We drift off Sandy Key;
The watch of Fenwick sees our sail
Scud for Henlopen's lee.
With decks awash and canvas torn
We wallow up the Stream;
We drag dismasted, cargo borne,
And fright the ships of steam.
Death grips us with his frosty hands
In calm and hurricane;
We spill our bones on fifty sands
From Mexico to Maine.
Cargo reef in main and fore,
Manned by half a crew,
Romping up the weather shore,
Edging down the Blue --
That's the way the Coaster goes,
Scouting with the lead:
Everywhere the tide flows,
Everywhere the wind blows,
From Cruz to Quoddy Head.

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