From The Bibliophile Library of Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Vol. XVIII, compiled and arranged by Nathan Haskell Dole, Forrest Morgan, and Caroline Ticknor; The International Bibliophile Society, New York-London; 1904; pp. 6094-6099.
[THOMAS HOOD, English poet, was born May 23, 1798, in London; son of a bookseller and nephew of an engraver. A merchant’s clerk at thirteen, the engraver’s apprentice at nineteen, his health gave out from the confinement of each; he next became a subeditor of the London Magazine for two years; then a professional man of letters, editing The Gem in 1829, starting the Comic Annual in 1830, succeeding Hook as editor of the New Monthly in 1841, and starting Hood’s Own in 1844. He died May 3, 1845. An eleven-volume edition of his works was issued in 1882-1884. His fame rests chiefly on his matchless lines “The Song of the Shirt,” “The Bridge of Sighs,” “Fair Ines,” “A Deathbed,” “I Remember,” “Eugene Aram’s Dream,” etc.; but his humorous pieces, like “The Lost Heir,” “Ode to a Child,” etc., the tragi-grotesque “Miss Kilmansegg,” and others, swell its volume.]
THE story of ’Lorn Light, that lends its lamp
To warn all vessels from the Reef of Doom,
Where lion surges ceaseless roar and ramp,
And many a gallant heart has found a tomb.
West of the point whereon the lighthouse stands,
A village nestles on the valley’s side,
Through which a brooklet tumbles to the sands,
To lose itself in the unrestful tide;
A little village, full of fisherfolk,
That boasts a tiny pier, of stone rough-hewn,
Whereon the wild waves beat themselves to smoke
When keen Northeasters pipe their stormy tune.
Here, summer visitors, — like swallows — came,
And gleamed the sands. But when the year,
Forewarned of death, touched all the woods with flame
For funeral pyre, then would they disappear:
Wherefore they knew not what the winters brought
To that small village by the water’s edge;
How with the cliffs the furious ocean fought,
Broke on their breast, and leapt from ledge to ledge.
Nor knew they what it was to wait and yearn
For those whose boats might never more come home —
So wondered why the fishers’ wives should turn
Eyes dim with awe to that long line of foam —
That long, white, angry bar across the tide,
Seen in the daylight, heard in midnight gloom,
Those rocks throughout the seacoast wild and wide,
Known, feared, and hated as the Reef of Doom.
In that small village Richard Masters dwelt,
An honest fisher, owner of a boat;
Yet one who in his inmost bosom felt
A longing for some nobler work afloat.
His father had been one of Nelson’s crew,
An “Agamemnon” tried and trusty tar;
He fought where’er the flag of Nelson flew,
And trod the slippery deck at Trafalgar.
Small wonder, Richard, as he hauled his net,
And Steered “The Little Commodore” to shore,
Should dream the vague, ambitious dreams that fret
A noble heart — inactive — to the core.
His mother lived; and, but for her, the boy
Had long ago sought scenes of sterner strife,
Content for her his labors to employ,
And gently feed her failing lamp of life.
But Love, the pilot, who delights to steer
Poor human hearts on sand bank or on reef —
Or, for long voyages will sail them clear,
Which bring them back with heavy freights of grief —
Love took the tiller out of Richard’s hand
(’Tis vain the pilot’s mandate to resist),
Then turned the vessel’s head away from land,
And let her drift where’er the winds might list!
For, as he dropt one evening with the stream,
Out past the pier head to his anchored sloop,
He saw a maiden lovelier than a dream —
O’er violet eyes saw golden lashes droop;
Saw the red sun on silken tresses shine,
On peach-soft cheeks, and lips of rosy bloom,
And fancied he beheld some shape divine
That beamed upon him in the gathering gloom.
Ah, sweet! ah, sore! the anguish and the joy
When first the soul’s chords thrill to passion’s hand!
With heart that almost burst for bliss, the boy
Let fall the oars, and drifted from the land,
A summer visitor that lovely maid,
Who thus had bound poor Richard’s heart her thrall —
One of those summer sojourners who paid
Their fleeting visits to the hamlet small.
He learnt her name; and she was far above
The humble fisher’s wildest, fondest dreams;
6096 But all in vain he strove against the love
That filled his brain with visionary schemes.
He never spoke of that deep wound he bore,
But grew so pale, and thin, and heavy-eyed,
That, watching him, his mother’s heart grew sore
To note how of the sadly mused and sighed;
For restlessness had seized him, and the land
Seemed hateful evermore by night and day,
And when he was not straying on the strand
He hoisted sail, and stood to sea away.
At length he sold “The Little Commodore,”
The boat that earned their living on the sea,
And gave his mother half the price for store,
And then to seek his fortune off went he.
Time passed. The poor old mother, left alone,
Waited and watched for years; then falling ill,
She died. But on her grave the humble stone
Still watched from the green graveyard on the hill —
Still looked to seaward, storied with her name —
Still gathered the salt dews, as if for tears,
So that her son, if e’er he thither came,
Might know his mother kept watch for years.
But he had volunteered when England’s fleet
Had need of sailors, for the hapless Greek
Who writhed in chains beneath the Paynim’s feet,
Called upon England with despairing shriek.
And Richard gained promotion; for his skill
And steady bearing won him credit great,
So, when there was the vacant post to fill,
Without delay his captain made him mate.
Withing his heart two women’s memories dwelt,
Through every watch they paced with him the ship;
And when to heaven in humble prayer he knelt,
Two women’s names were last upon his lip:
His mother’s name, and hers, who used to make
Great deeds seem small — made danger seem unknown,
For he had sworn to perish for her sake,
Or win a fame she would not blush to own.
And Richard fought in Navarino’s bay,
And gained renown upon the gory deck
Of his small cutter, which, the victor, lay
Between two Turkish frigates — each a wreck!
6097 For they had fought the fiery contest out,
’Mid showers of shot, and flames, and falling spars
(Heaven help the fools, who ever feel a doubt
That when war comes, our England will lack tars).
And all the officers had fallen, and he,
The mate, had fought the little craft alone,
And fought so well, the fleet all cheered to see
The cutter with her prizes overgrown.
Back to that little village on the coast,
Poor Richard hastened, with a pride sincere,
To tell his story, not for vulgar boast,
But joyous news to glad a mother’s ear.
That for his long, long absence would atone!
He sought the well-known cot, — but where was she?
He found an answer in the cold gray stone,
That in the windy graveyard watched the sea!
Then memory of the other loved one came:
His heart grew cold to think, “Was she, too, dead?”
But brain and breast seemed filled with living flame
To learn that she was living — and was wed!
Had wedded one whom Richard knew of old,
A gallant seaman, worthy of his post
As captain of the “Swift,” whose trade was gold,
And skins, and ivory, on Afric’s coast.
Thus all the light died out of Richard’s life,
As dies the light on far horizon rim,
When leaden clouds, with rain and tempest rife,
Brook o’er the deep, and all the day grows dim!
And morn and eve he loitered on the shore.
Without a purpose, like a man distraught.
Were many living he had known of yore,
And yet companionship of none he sought!
Btu when the winter came, with howling wind,
And land and water met in angry strife,
Then Richard roused himself, and seemed to find
In others’ perils some new use for life!
Whene’er the minute guns with hollow boom
Proclaimed some hapless vessel, tempest-tost,
Was driving headlong on the Reef of Doom,
Where — no aid coming — she must soon be lost,
6098 Richard was foremost of the rescuing crew,
Despite the waves that threatened to o’erwhelm;
Pushed off to sea among the gallant few,
And took the post of danger at the helm!
One night the boat, while loud the tempest shrieked,
Put forth to aid a vessel seen to strike
On Doom’s dark Reef — and ocean vengeance wreaked
Upon the wrecked and rescuers alike!
The boat was dashed against the vessel’s side
And shattered — stove — sunk with her weary crew:
Then, while they battled with the boiling tide,
The ship heeled over — groaned — and broke in two!
They drew poor Richard upon the sand,
Worn out with struggling in the yeasty waves,
For he had borne a burden to the strand,
Though now they both seemed fit but for their graves!
But Richard was a man, and iron-nerved,
And so with care he came to life erelong;
But she was dead, whom he had fain preserved —
A woman! women are so seldom strong;
And this was one as delicate and fair
As bindweed blooms, that perish at a touch,
With soft blue eyes and silky golden hair —
Death has no need of violence with such!
But when poor Richard, staggering to his feet,
Crossed to the couch, that pallid face to see,
His lips grew white — his faint heart ceased to beat —
His blood was turned to water — it was she!
She, the beloved! Thus after years they met,
Too late, too late, by chance together thrown —
Richard — the man who never could forget;
And she — the woman who had never known.
He laid her in the little quiet grave,
Beside his mother, looking o’er the sea,
Within the hearing of the restless wave.
Here he, too, hoped his rest at last would be!
And then he sware an oath that ne’er again,
In calm or storm, by daylight or in gloom,
Should any ship that sailed upon the main
Meet her destruction on the Reef of Doom;
6099 Wherefore he built the tower on the cliff,
And lit the lamp, and watched it, day and night;
So that no vessel may be wrecked there, if
The skipper does but steer her by ’Lorn Light.