The Fisherman's Story
Draw a little closer, comrades!
For I promised you should know
How I found my little Alice,
In the storm so long ago.
Hear the wind? 'tis but an echo
Of the fury of that hour;
Nature seemed in mood defiant,
Proving well her utmost power.
Loud the tempest roared and muttered,
High the breakers dashed that night;
Stiff' and stark against the heavens
Stood the cliffs so marble white.
Many a storm I've weathered, comrades,
But a something strangely sad
Seemed to seize upon my spirit,--
Feelings I had never had.
In my window burned a rush-light,
And the curtains were half drawn,
While I gazed upon the billows,
Thinking of my lot forlorn,
Of my Jennie in the churchyard,
And our only boy, our pride,
Sleeping far beneath the surges,
Ever since that Christmas-tide.
Oh! the wind that moaned that midnight!
Never fiercer tempest raged
As I strode into the darkness,
Feeling like a bird long caged;
119And the thought of human beings
Tossed perchance, upon the sands,
Helped me climb the rocky ledges,
Made me, clench my wrinkled hands.
Sudden as I turned the headland
There I saw what I had dreamed;
For the black hull of a vessel,
By the breakers sorely seamed,
Lay still heaving: all was over.
Bodies whence the life had fled,
Strewed the wet rocks. I, the living,
Stood alone amid the dead.
While I scanned the ruin closely,
With my torch-light lifted high,
Something glistened through the shadows
Like a star dropped from the sky.
'Twas a babe's eyes, large and lustrous,
And as if in holy prayer,
She with look of strange beseeching,
Gazed through her dead mother's hair.
Tenderly I raised the wee one
Breathing there amidst the dead;
How the wind shrieked through the cordage!
How the tempest ragedo'er-head!
Tenderly I bore her homeward
To the fisher's dreary cot;
Like a star her presence' radiance
Much has cheered my lonely lot.
Now draw closer, faithful comrades!
When I viewed the mother's face,
Who was it but little Mary,
Flaxen-haired and full of grace;
120Mary, favorite of the village--
And I loved her somewhat too--
But she loved a foreign soldier,
And her life-work now was through.
So I brought the little Alice
To my hearth so poor and lone;
Now she's left me for another,
For a fireside of her own.
Happiness attend her, comrades!
For my strength is getting low,
And I would not grudge the pleasure
She may with another know.
Now draw closer still, my comrades!
Hear the tempest raging high!
Though the stars are veiled in darkness,
They are steadfast in the sky.
So, although our days are dreary,
Let us take what joy we may!
With the courage of a hero,
Let us live our little day!