Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SKETCH OF AN OCCURRENCE ON BOARD A BRIG, by JOHN GARDINER CALKINS BRAINARD



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SKETCH OF AN OCCURRENCE ON BOARD A BRIG, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The sun's beam and the moon's beam check the sea
Last Line: Where sank, and died alone, the broken-hearted maid.
Subject(s): Grief; Sea; Sorrow; Sadness; Ocean


I.

THE sun's beam and the moon's beam check the sea,
The light wave smiles in both, and sportingly
Catching the silver on its deep blue side,
Throws it in spangles on the westering tide,
And tints the golden edges of the beam
That last and sweetest trembles on the stream;
For sure 't is moonlight -- see the sun give way,
And yon fair orb light up another day,
A calmer, sorer morning than the hour
Of real morn, however bedecked with flower,
Or bud, or song, or dew-drop -- the sun's feast,
Or all the gorgeous glories of the East.
What boat is that! yon lonely little boat,
Sculling and rippling through the shades, that float
On yon sequestered bay; and mark the trees,
Bending so beautifully in the breeze.
It steals from out the shade, and now the tide
Presses its bow and chafes against its side;
he seems to wear her way with little strength,
Feeble, but yet determined, till at length
The skiff comes near and nearer -- "boat ahoy!
What scull is that, and who are you, my boy?"


II.

There is a tear in that young, sullen eye,
That looks not like a boy's tear, soon to dry;
There is a tremor on his lip and chin,
A mixed up look -- half feeling and half sin.
Panting with toil or anger, now he stands
Upon the deck, and wrings his blistered hands,
Too proud to weep, -- too young to wear the face
Of manhood steeled to danger, pain, disgrace;
There was in lip, and cheek, and brow, and eye,
A gesture of each thought's variety,
While leaning sadly 'gainst the vessel's wale,
He told, in broken words, a common tale.
He was a runaway, -- had left the shore,
Stolen a boat, a jacket, and an oar,
And come on board our brig, "in hopes that we,"
(He said,) "would take him with us out to sea."
The captain hushed at once the poor boy's fears:
--We want a cabin boy -- dry up your tears;
The wind calls for us, spread the loftiest sail,
And catch the top-most favor of the gale;
The tide sets out, the ocean's on the lea,
Gayly we'll plough our furrow through the sea.


III.

The eye, the ear, the nostril, and the heart,
How they do snuff and listen, gaze, and start,
When the brave vessel strains each brace and line,
Mounts the mad wave, and, dashing through its brine,
Flies from the thickening anger of the spray,
And doubly swift leaps forward on her way;
While the keen seaman takes his watchful stand,
And feels the tiller tremble in his hand--
Or lashed securely on the sea-washed side,
Heaves lead, or log, and sings how fast they glide.
But that young boy: I think I see him now,
With death upon his eye-lid and his brow;
That eye so blue and clear, that forehead fair,
Those ringlets, too, of close-curled, glossy hair,
That hectic flush, which to the last grew bright,
As his next world's young dawning grew more light;--
Yes! that young boy -- the danger and the pain
Of hardships past -- the thought that ne'er again
His foot might press the paths his boyhood loved,
Or his hand lift the latchet unreproved,
His ear hear sweet forgiveness -- or his eye
See those he loved even from his infancy, --
And then the giddy whirl of his young brain,
Upon the rushing, changing, tumbling main,
Without a friend to look at, by his side,
He wept, and said his prayers, and groaned, and died.


IV.

They plunged him, when the winds were up, and when
The sharks played round this floating home of men;
When the strained timbers groaned in every wave,
And the rough cordage screamed above his grave;
When the wild winds wove many a sailor's shroud
Of darkness in the red-edged thunder cloud;
While in the dread black pauses of the storm,
The stunned ear heard his moan, the shut eye saw his form.
Had it been calm -- had dolphins played in rings,
And flying fishes sunned their wetted wings;
Had the sweet south but breathed to smooth the sea,
And evening, for one hour, looked tranquilly;
Or had same tomb-like iceberg floated on
The spot, as the retiring sun went down,
Or the black Peteril on mid-ocean's surge
Sung to the Albatross the poor boy's dirge, --
One might have blest the far off, long lost spot
Where to the deepest depths he sunk and was forgot.
Silent they bore him to the vessel's side,
Silent the hammock and the rope they eyed,
With thoughtful look, a moment there they stood,
And gazed an instant on the yawning flood;
A sailor's prayer, a sailor's tear, were all
They had to give him, but a sailor's pall--
They plunged him in the water, and the shark
Plunged after him, down, down, into the dark.


V.

On rolls the storm --once more the sky is blue,
And there is mirth among the hardy crew;
The port is gained, the vessel waits the breeze,
To bear her once again o'er tides and seas
Back to her home: our native hills once more
Send the land breezes from the well-known shore,
And, as the joys and pains of memory come,
The questioned pilot tells us news of home.
Once more upon the land!--What sweet-eyed girl
With long bright locks, clustered in many a curl
Round her white polished forehead, sits alone
In anxious sadness on yon wave washed stone!
Her eye looks searchingly from face to face,
One long sought look or lineament to trace;
In vain the ear grates to each loud rough cry
Of boisterous welcome, or of coarse reply,--
In vain that hand is stretched his hand to grasp,
In vain those arms his well loved form to clasp;
A few shrill piercing words -- 't was all she said--
"O tell me, is my brother"--"he is dead." --
As the struck bird will rise upon the wing,
And whirl aloft in agonizing swing,
Then seek the darkest covert of the wood,
To pant, and bleed, and die in solitude --
That fair form flitted to the forest shade,
Where sank, and died alone, the broken-hearted maid.





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