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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

With a Nantucket Shell

By Charles Henry Webb (1834–1905)

[From Vagrom Verse. 1889.]

I SEND thee a shell from the ocean beach;

But listen thou well, for my shell hath speech.

Hold to thine ear,

And plain thou’lt hear

Tales of ships

That were lost in the rips,

Or that sank on shoals

Where the bell-buoy tolls,

And ever and ever its iron tongue rolls

In a ceaseless lament for the poor lost souls.

And a song of the sea

Has my shell for thee;

The melody in it

Was hummed at Wauwinet,

And caught at Coatue

By the gull that flew

Outside to the ship with its perishing crew.

But the white wings wave

Where none may save,

And there’s never a stone to mark a grave.

See, its sad heart bleeds

For the sailors’ needs;

But it bleeds again

For more mortal pain,

More sorrow and woe

Than is theirs who go

With shuddering eyes and whitening lips

Down in the sea on their shattered ships.

Thou fearest the sea?

And a tyrant is he,—

A tyrant as cruel as tyrant may be;

But though winds fierce blow,

And the rocks lie low,

And the coast be lee,

This I say to thee:

Of Christian souls more have been wrecked on shore

Than ever were lost at sea!