Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part II. The Golden Legend. V. VI. At Sea

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. V. VI. At Sea

THE WIND upon our quarter lies,

And on before the freshening gale,

That fills the snow-white lateen sail,

Swiftly our light felucca flies.

Around, the billows burst and foam;

They lift her o’er the sunken rock,

They beat her sides with many a shock,

And then upon their flowing dome

They poise her, like a weathercock!

Between us and the western skies

The hills of Corsica arise;

Eastward, in yonder long blue line,

The summits of the Apennine,

And southward, and still far away,

Salerno, on its sunny bay.

You cannot see it, where it lies.

Ah, would that never more mine eyes

Might see its towers by night or day!

Behind us, dark and awfully,

There comes a cloud out of the sea,

That bears the form of a hunted deer,

With hide of brown, and hoofs of black,

And antlers laid upon its back,

And fleeing fast and wild with fear,

As if the hounds were on its track!

Lo! while we gaze, it breaks and falls

In shapeless masses, like the walls

Of a burnt city. Broad and red

The fires of the descending sun

Glare through the windows, and o’erhead,

Athwart the vapors, dense and dun,

Long shafts of silvery light arise,

Like rafters that support the skies!

See! from its summit the lurid levin

Flashes downward without warning,

As Lucifer, son of the morning,

Fell from the battlements of heaven!

I must entreat you, friends, below!

The angry storm begins to blow,

For the weather changes with the moon.

All this morning, until noon,

We had baffling winds, and sudden flaws

Struck the sea with their cat’s-paws.

Only a little hour ago

I was whistling to Saint Antonio

For a capful of wind to fill our sail,

And instead of a breeze he has sent a gale.

Last night I saw Saint Elmo’s stars,

With their glimmering lanterns, all at play

On the tops of the masts and the tips of the spars,

And I knew we should have foul weather to-day.

Cheerily, my hearties! yo heave ho!

Brail up the mainsail, and let her go

As the winds will and Saint Antonio!

Do you see that Livornese felucca,

That vessel to the windward yonder,

Running with her gunwale under?

I was looking when the wind o’ertook her.

She had all sail set, and the only wonder

Is that at once the strength of the blast

Did not carry away her mast.

She is a galley of the Gran Duca,

That, through the fear of the Algerines,

Convoys those lazy brigantines,

Laden with wine and oil from Lucca.

Now all is ready, high and low;

Blow, blow, good Saint Antonio!

Ha! that is the first dash of the rain,

With a sprinkle of spray above the rails,

Just enough to moisten our sails,

And make them ready for the strain.

See how she leaps, as the blasts o’ertake her,

And speeds away with a bone in her mouth!

Now keep her head toward the south,

And there is no danger of bank or breaker.

With the breeze behind us, on we go;

Not too much, good Saint Antonio!