Posts Tagged ‘squall’


The weather-leech of the topsail shivers,
The bowlines strain, and the lee-shrouds slacken,
The braces are taut, the lithe boom quivers,
And the waves with the coming squall-cloud blacken.

Open one point on the weather-bow,
Is the lighthouse tall on Fire Island Head.
There’s a shade of doubt on the captain’s brow,
And the pilot watches the heaving lead.

I stand at the wheel, and with eager eye
To sea and to sky and to shore I gaze,
Till the muttered order of ‘Full and by!’
Is suddenly changed for ‘Full for stays!’

The ship bends lower before the breeze,
As her broadside fair to the blast she lays;
And she swifter springs to the rising seas,
As the pilot calls, ‘Stand by for stays!’

It is silence all, as each in his place,
With the gathered coil in his hardened hands,
By tack and bowline, by sheet and brace,
Waiting the watchword impatient stands.

And the light on Fire Island Head draws near,
As, trumpet-winged, the pilot’s shout
From his post on the bowsprit’s heel I hear,
With the welcome call of ‘Ready! About!’

No time to spare! It is touch and go;
And the captain growls, ‘Down helm! hard down!’
As my weight on the whirling spokes I throw,
While heaven grows black with the storm-cloud’s frown.

High o’er the knight-heads flies the spray,
As we meet the shock of the plunging sea;
And my shoulder stiff to the wheel I lay,
As I answer, ‘Ay, ay, sir! Ha-a-rd a-lee!’

With the swerving leap of a startled steed
The ship flies fast in the eye of the wind,
The dangerous shoals on the lee recede,
And the headland white we have left behind.

The topsails flutter, the jibs collapse,
And belly and tug at the groaning cleats;
The spanker slats, and the mainsail flaps;
And thunders the order, ‘Tacks and sheets!’

Mid the rattle of blocks and the tramp of the crew,
Hisses the rain of the rushing squall:
The sails are aback from clew to clew,
And now is the moment for ‘Mainsail, haul!’

And the heavy yards, like a baby’s toy,
By fifty strong arms are swiftly swung:
She holds her way, and I look with joy
For the first white spray o’er the bulwarks flung.

‘Let go, and haul!’ ‘Tis the last command,
And the head-sails fill to the blast once more:
Astern and to leeward lies the land,
With its breakers white on the shingly shore.

What matters the reef, or the rain, or the squall?
I steady the helm for the open sea;
The first mate clamors, ‘Belay, there, all!’
And the captain’s breath once more comes free.

And so off shore let the good ship fly;
Little care I how the gusts may blow,
In my fo’castle bunk, in a jacket dry.
Eight bells have struck, and my watch is below.



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                  The Three Fishers

Three fishers went sailing out into the west –
   Out into the west as the sun went down;
Each thought of the woman who loved him the best,
   And the children stood watching them out of the town;
For men must work, and women must weep;
And there’s little to earn, and many to keep,
   Though the harbor bar be moaning. 

Three wives sat up in the lighthouse tower,
   And trimmed the lamps as the sun went down;
And they looked at the squall, and they looked at the shower,
   And the rack it came rolling up, ragged and brown;
But men must work, and women must weep,
Though storms be sudden, and waters deep,
   And the harbor bar is moaning. 

Three corpses lay out on the shining sands
   In the morning gleam as the tide went down,
And the women are watching and wringing their hands,
   For those who will never come back to the town;
For men must work, and women must weep, –
And the sooner it’s over, the sooner to sleep, –
   And good by to the bar and its moaning.


Stan Rogers sings Three Fishers (3:50) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_7pepho8mI

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