Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN APIA BAY, by CHARLES GEORGE DOUGLAS ROBERTS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

IN APIA BAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Ruin and death held sway
Last Line: Of splendid chivalry and valor high!
Subject(s): Apia Bay, Samoan Islands; Courage; Disasters; Hurricanes; Shipwrecks; Valor; Bravery

(Morituri vos salutamus)

RUIN and death held sway
That night in Apia Bay,
And smote amid the loud and dreadful gloom.
But, Hearts, no longer weep
The salt unresting sleep
Of the great dead, victorious in their doom.

Vain, vain the strait retreat
That held the fated fleet,
Trapped in the two-fold threat of sea and shore!
Fell reefs on either hand,
And the devouring strand!
Above, below, the tempest's deafening roar!

What mortal hand shall write
The horror of that night,
The desperate struggle in that deadly close,
The yelling of the blast,
The wild surf, white, aghast,
The whelming seas, the thunder and the throes!

How the great cables surged,
The giant engines urged,
As the brave ships the unequal strife waged on!
Not hope, not courage flagged;
But the vain anchors dragged,
Down on the reefs they shattered, and were gone!

And now were wrought the deeds
Whereof each soul that reads
Grows manlier, and burns with prouder breath, --
Heroic brotherhood,
The loving bonds of blood,
Proclaimed from high hearts face to face with death.

At length, the English ship
Her cables had let slip,
Crowded all steam, and steered for the open sea,
Resolved to challenge Fate,
To pass the perilous strait,
And wrench from jaws of ruin Victory.

With well-tried metals strained,
In the storm's teeth she gained,
Foot by slow foot made head, and crept toward life.
Across her dubious way
The good ship Trenton lay,
Helpless, but thrilled to watch the splendid strife.

Helmless she lay, her bulk
A blind and wallowing hulk,
By her strained hawsers only held from wreck,
But dauntless each brave heart
Played his immortal part
In strong endurance on the reeling deck.

They fought Fate inch by inch, --
Could die, but could not flinch;
And, biding the inevitable doom,
They marked the English ship,
Baffling the tempest's grip,
Forge hardly forth from the expected tomb.

Then, with exultant breath,
These heroes waiting death,
Thundered across the storm a peal of cheers, --
To the triumphant brave
A greeting from the grave,
Whose echo shall go ringing down the years.

"To you, who well have won,
From us, whose course is run,
Glad greeting, as we face the undreaded end!"
The memory of those cheers
Shall thrill in English ears
Where'er this English blood and speech extend.

No manlier deed comes down,
Blazoned in broad renown,
From men of old who lived to dare and die!
The old fire yet survives,
Here in our modern lives,
Of splendid chivalry and valor high!

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