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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

The Moorings

By William Wallace Harney (1831–1912)

[Born in Bloomington, Ind., 1831. Died in Jacksonville, Fla., 1912.]


MOORED out in the bay,

And slowly under her keel

The long wave seems to feel—

To crawl and feel its way,

Lest her timbers rip

The smooth photogeny

Of the picture of the ship

In the hollow of the sea.

Only twice a day

The short tide comes and goes,

Crunching under her toes,

In and out of the bay,

Muttering and coughing;

And, lazily enough,

Around her in the offing

The sun and shadows luff.

Around the great white ships,

The burly tugs and ferries,

The fishing smacks and wherries,

And the thirsty sandy slips.

She sees their shadows clear,

By one and two and three,

Appear and disappear

In the hollow of the sea.

Shall she never salt her

Timbers in old traffic,

Down the coast of Afric,

Sailing from Gibraltar,

Round by Mozambique?

Shall she never speak

Sampan rafts afloat,

The lean-toothed sloop of war,

Or, home-bound, the pilot-boat,

At the break of the harbor bar?

Or, when the scuds of clouds

Blacken the night with rain,

Feel her canvas strain

From truck to futtock shrouds,

To run the sharp blockade,

With the Federal gun-boats at her,

Bursting a cannonade

In the hiss of the driving water?

Never: the stir is over

Of war and tempest and gain;

No more will the quickening strain

Start in the old sea-rover

To the crack of the cannons’ snapping,

The shouts of the men, the souse

Of the salt brine barking and flapping

And poppling under her bows.

Never: her rotten brails

Sag down from the yard;

The mildew is in her sails;

The shell-fish crusts a shard

Over her copper legging;

And, limed in the ooze, she waits,

Like Belisarius begging

At the conquered city’s gates.