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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

Sir Humphrey Gilbert

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

[From Poetical Works. 1887.]

SOUTHWARD with fleet of ice

Sailed the corsair Death;

Wild and fast blew the blast,

And the east-wind was his breath.

His lordly ships of ice

Glisten in the sun;

On each side, like pennons wide,

Flashing crystal streamlets run.

His sails of white sea-mist

Dripped with silver rain;

But where he passed there were cast

Leaden shadows o’er the main.

Eastward from Campobello

Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed;

Three days or more seaward he bore

Then, alas! the land-wind failed.

Alas! the land-wind failed,

And ice-cold grew the night;

And nevermore, on sea or shore,

Should Sir Humphrey see the light.

He sat upon the deck,

The Book was in his hand;

“Do not fear! Heaven is as near,”

He said, “by water as by land!”

In the first watch of the night,

Without a signal’s sound,

Out of the sea, mysteriously,

The fleet of Death rose all around.

The moon and the evening star

Were hanging in the shrouds;

Every mast, as it passed,

Seemed to rake the passing clouds.

They grappled with their prize,

At midnight black and cold!

As of a rock was the shock;

Heavily the ground-swell rolled.

Southward through day and dark,

They drift in close embrace,

With mist and rain, o’er the open main;

Yet there seems no change of place.

Southward, forever southward,

They drift through dark and day;

And like a dream, in the Gulf-Stream

Sinking, vanish all away.