James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

March 24

The Loss of the Eurydice

By Edmund Gosse (1849–1928)

March 24, 1878

TIRED with the toils that know no end,

On wintry seas long doomed to roam,

They smiled to think that March could lend

Such radiant winds to waft them home;

Long perils overpast,

They stood for port at last,

Close by the fair familiar water-way,

And on their sunlit lee

All hearts were glad to see

The crags of Culver through the shining day;

While every white-winged bird,

Whose joyous cry they heard,

Seemed wild to shout the welcome that it bore

Of love from friends on shore.

Ah! brief their joy, as days are brief

In March that loves not joy or sun;

O bitter to the heart of grief

The port that never shall be won;

Fair ship, with all sail set,

Didst thou perchance forget

The changing times and treacherous winds of Spring?

And could those headlong gray

Rehearse no tale to-day,

Of wrecks they have seen, and many a grievous thing?

Thy towering cliff, Dunnose,

Full many a secret knows,—

Cry out in warning voice! too much they dare;

Death gathers in the air.

A wind blew sharp out of the north,

And o’er the island ridges rose

A sound of tempest going forth,

And murmur of approaching snows.

Then through the sunlit air

Streamed dark the lifted hair

Of storm-cloud, gathering for the light’s eclipse,

And fiercely rose and fell

And shriek of waves, the knell

Of seamen, and the doom of wandering ships;

As with an eagle’s cry

The mighty storm rushed by,

Trailing its robe of snow across the wave,

And gulfed them like a grave.

It passed; it fell; and all was still;

But, homebound wanderers, where were they?

The wind went down behind the hill,

The sunset gilded half the bay.

Ah! loud bewildered sea,

Vain, vain our trust in thee

To bring our kinsfolk home, through storm and tide!

So sharp and swift the blow,

Thyself dost hardly know

Where now they rest whom thou didst bear and guide;

Our human hearts may break,

Cold Ocean, for thy sake,—

Thou not the less canst paint in colors fair

The eve of our despair.

Not hard for heroes is the death

That greets them from the cannon’s lips,

When heaven is red with flaming breath,

And shakes with roar of sundering ships:

When through the thunder-cloud

Sounds to them, clear and loud,

The voice of England calling them by name;

And as their eyes grow dim

They hear the nation’s hymn,

And know the prelude of immortal fame;

But sad indeed is this

The meed of war to miss,

And die for England, but in dying know

They leave no name but woe.

They cannot rest through coming years,

In any ground that England owns,

And billows salter than our tears

Wash over their unhonored bones;

Yet in our hearts they rest

Not less revered and blest

Than those, their brothers, who in fighting fell;

Nor shall our children hear

Their names pronounced less dear,

When England’s roll of gallant dead we tell;

For ever shall our ships,

There, at the Solent’s lips,

Pass out to glory over their still bed,

And praise the silent dead.