Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THEODOSIA BURR: THE WRECKER'S STORY, by JOHN WILLIAMSON PALMER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THEODOSIA BURR: THE WRECKER'S STORY, by                    
First Line: In revel and carousing
Last Line: For the stroke of the lord, belated!
Subject(s): Burr, Theodosia (1783-1813)

IN revel and carousing
We gave the New Year housing,
With wreckage for our firing,
And rum to heart's desiring,
Antigua and Jamaica,
Flagon and stoup and breaker.
Full cans and a ranting chorus;
Hard hearts for the bout before us --
To brave grim Death's grimaces
On dazed and staring faces.

With dirks and hangers bristling,
We for a gale went whistling,
Tornado or pampero,
To swamp the host of Pharaoh;
To goad the mad Atlantic,
And drive the skippers frantic:
To jar the deep with thunder,
And make the waste a wonder,
And plunge the coasters under,
And pile the banks with plunder.

Then the wild rack came skirling,
Ragged and crazed, and whirling
Sea-stuff and sand in breakers,
Frothing the shelvy acres:
Over the banks high bounding,
Inlet and sound confounding.
Hatteras roared and rumbled,
Currituck heaved and tumbled;
And the sea-gulls screamed like witches,
And sprawled in the briny ditches.

Shelter and rest we flouted,
Jorum and pipe we scouted,
Fiddler and wench we routed.
"Fetch out the nag!" we shouted;
For a craft in the offing struggled.
"Now for a skipper juggled;
Now for a coaster stranded,
And loot in the lockers landed!"
With lantern cheerly rocking
On the nag's head, we went mocking --
Lilting of tipsy blisses,
And Bonnibel's squandered kisses.

Straight for that hell-spark steering,
Drove the doomed craft careering;
Men on her fore-deck huddled,
Sea in her wake all cruddled,
Kitty Hawk sheer before her,
And the breakers booming o'er her
Till the rocks in their lurking stove her,
And her riven spars went over,
And she lay on her side and shivered,
And groaned to be delivered.

Boats through the black rift storming,
Foes on her quarter swarming;
Dirks in the torchlight flashing,
And the wicked hangers slashing;
Lips that were praying mangled,
Throats that were screaming, strangled;
Souls in the surges tumbling,
Vainly for foothold fumbling;
Horror of staring faces,
Gruesome in Death's grimaces --
And God's wrath overpast us,
With never a bolt to blast us!

By the brunt of our doings daunted,
We crouched where the fore-deck slanted,
Scanning each other's faces,
Graved with that horror's traces.
One, peering aft, wild-staring,
Points through the torches flaring:
"Spook of the storm, or human?
Angel, or wraith, or woman?"
Havoc and wreck surveying,
Imploring not, nor praying,
Nor death nor life refusing;
Stony and still -- accusing!

Black as our hearts the creature's
Vesture, her matchless features
White as the dead. Oh! wonder
Of women high heaven under!
So she moved down upon us
(Though Death and the Fiend might shun us),
And we made passage, cowering.
Rigid and mute and towering,
Never a frown she deigned us,
Never with curse arraigned us.
One, trembling, dropped his hanger,
And swooned at the awful clangor;
But she passed on, unharking,
Her steps our doom-strokes marking,
Straight to the plank, and mounted.
"One, two, three, four!" we counted;
Till she paused, o'er the flood suspended,
Poised, her lithe arms extended. --
And the storm stood still and waited
For the stroke of the Lord, belated!

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