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

A Book of Sonnets

The Broken Oar

  • “November 13, 1864. Stay at home and ponder upon Dante. I am frequently tempted to write upon my work the inscription found upon an oar cast on the coast of Iceland,—
  • Oft war ek dasa durek [char]ro thick.

    Oft was I weary when I tugged at thee.”

  • ONCE upon Iceland’s solitary strand

    A poet wandered with his book and pen,

    Seeking some final word, some sweet Amen,

    Wherewith to close the volume in his hand.

    The billows rolled and plunged upon the sand,

    The circling sea-gulls swept beyond his ken,

    And from the parting cloud-rack now and then

    Flashed the red sunset over sea and land

    Then by the billows at his feet was tossed

    A broken oar; and carved thereon he read:

    “Oft was I weary, when I toiled at thee;”

    And like a man, who findeth what was lost,

    He wrote the words, then lifted up his head,

    And flung his useless pen into the sea.