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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 Whaling Song

By John Osborn (1713–1753)

[Born in Sandwich, Mass., 1713. Died at Middletown, Conn., 1753. Preserved in Kettell’s “Specimens of American Poetry.” 1829.]

WHEN spring returns with western gales,

And gentle breezes sweep

The ruffling seas, we spread our sails

To plough the watery deep.

For killing northern whales prepared,

Our nimble boats on board,

With craft and rum (our chief regard)

And good provisions stored.

Cape Cod, our dearest native land,

We leave astern, and lose

Its sinking cliffs and lessening sands

While Zephyr gently blows.

Bold, hardy men, with blooming age,

Our sandy shores produce;

With monstrous fish they dare engage,

And dangerous callings choose.

Now towards the early dawning east

We speed our course away,

With eager minds and joyful hearts,

To meet the rising day.

Then as we turn our wandering eyes,

We view one constant show;

Above, around, the circling skies,

The rolling seas below.

When eastward, clear of Newfoundland,

We stem the frozen pole,

We see the icy islands stand,

The northern billows roll.

As to the north we make our way,

Surprising scenes we find;

We lengthen out the tedious day,

And leave the night behind.

Now see the northern regions, where

Eternal winter reigns:

One day and night fills up the year,

And endless cold maintains.

We view the monsters of the deep,

Great whales in numerous swarms;

And creatures there, that play and leap,

Of strange, unusual forms.

When in our station we are placed,

And whales around us play,

We launch our boats into the main,

And swiftly chase our prey.

In haste we ply our nimble oars,

For an assault designed;

The sea beneath us foams and roars,

And leaves a wake behind.

A mighty whale we rush upon,

And in our irons throw:

She sinks her monstrous body down

Among the waves below.

And when she rises out again,

We soon renew the fight;

Thrust our sharp lances in amain,

And all her rage excite.

Enraged, she makes a mighty bound;

Thick foams the whitened sea;

The waves in circles rise around,

And widening roll away.

She thrashes with her tail around,

And blows her reddening breath;

She breaks the air, a deafening sound,

While ocean groans beneath.

From numerous wounds, with crimson flood,

She stains the frothy seas,

And gasps, and blows her latest blood,

While quivering life decays.

With joyful hearts we see her die,

And on the surface lay;

While all with eager haste apply,

To save our deathful prey.