Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AT THE CANNON'S MOUTH, by HERMAN MELVILLE



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AT THE CANNON'S MOUTH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Palely intent, he urged his keel
Last Line: The star ascended in his nativity.
Subject(s): Albemarle (Ship); American Civil War; Cushing, William Barker (1842-1874); United States - History


(DESTRUCTION OF THE RAM ALBEMARLE BY THE TORPEDO-LAUNCH,
OCTOBER 27, 1'64)

PALELY intent, he urged his keel
Full on the guns, and touched the spring;
Himself involved in the bolt he drove
Timed with the armed hull's shot that stove
His shallop -- die or do!
Into the flood his life he threw,
Yet lives -- unscathed -- a breathing thing
To marvel at.
He has his fame;
But that mad dash at death, how name?

Had Earth no charm to stay the Boy
From the martyr-passion? Could he dare
Disdain the Paradise of opening joy
Which beckons the fresh heart everywhere?
Life has more lures than any girl
For youth and strength; puts forth a share
Of beauty, hinting of yet rarer store;
And ever with unfathomable eyes,
Which bafflingly entice,
Still strangely does Adonis draw.
And life once over, who shall tell the rest?
Life is, of all we know, God's best.
What imps these eagles then, that they
Fling disrespect on life by that proud way
In which they soar above our lower clay.

Pretence of wonderment and doubt unblest:
In Cushing's eager deed was shown
A spirit which brave poets own --
That scorn of life which earns life's crown;
Earns, but not always wins; but he --
The star ascended in his nativity.





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