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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Storm at Sea

By Roger Wolcott (1679–1767)

[A Brief Account of the Agency of the Honorable John Winthrop. From Poetical Meditations; Being the Improvement of some Vacant Hours. 1725.]

THEIR ancient homes they leave to come no more;

Their weeping friends and kindred on the shore

They bid adieu, and with an aching heart

Shake hands; ’tis hard when dearest friends must part,

But here they part, and leave their parent isle,

Their whilome happy seat. The winds awhile

Are courteous and conduct them on their way,

To near the midst of the Atlantic Sea,

When suddenly their pleasant gales they change

For dismal storms that on the ocean range;

For faithless Æolus meditating harms

Breaks up the peace, and, priding much in arms,

Unbars the great artillery of Heaven;

And, at the fatal signal by him given,

The cloudy chariots threat’ning take the plains,

Drawn by wing’d steeds, hard pressing on their reins.

These vest battalions, in dire aspect rais’d,

Start from the barriers-night with lightning blaz’d,

Whilst clashing wheels, resounding thunder cracks

Struck mortals deaf, and Heaven astonished shakes.

Here the ship captain in the midnight watch

Stamps on the deck and thunders up the hatch;

And to the mariners aloud he cries,

“Now all from safe recumbency arise!

All hands aloft and stand well to your tack,

Engend’ring storms have clothed the sky with black;

Big tempests threaten to undo the world:

Down top-sail, let the main-sail soon be furled;

Haste to the fore-sail, there take up a reef;

’Tis time, boys, now if ever to be brief:

Aloof for life, lets try to stem the tide,

The ship’s much water, thus we may not ride.

Stand roomer, then, let’s run before the sea,

That so the ship may feel her steerage way.

Steady at helm!” Swiftly along she scuds

Before the wind and cuts the foaming suds,

Sometimes aloft she lifts her prow so high,

As if she’d run her bowsprit through the sky.

Then from the summit ebbs and hurries down,

As if her way were to the Centre shown.

Meanwhile our founders in the cabin sate,

Reflecting on their true and sad estate;

Whilst holy Warham’s sacred lips did treat

About God’s promises and mercies great.

Still more gigantic births spring from the clouds,

Which tore the tatterd canvas from the shrouds,

And dreadful bulls of lightning fill the air,

Shot from the hand of the Great Thunderer.

And now a mighty sea the ship o’er rakes,

Which falling on the deck the bulkhead breaks;

The sailors cling to ropes and frighted cry:

“The ship is foundered! we die! we die!”