Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  A Plea for Flood Ireson

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

New England: Marblehead, Mass.

A Plea for Flood Ireson

By Charles Timothy Brooks (1813–1883)

  • (Excerpt)
  • In the spring of the year 1808 the schooner Betsy of Marblehead commanded by “Skipper Ireson,” passing Cape Cod on her way home from the West Indies, sighted a wreck; but as it was dark and the sea was running high at the time, she was unable to render any assistance. Soon after another vessel rescued the people on the wreck, who reached shore in season for the news to be carried to Marblehead before the Betsy’s arrival. The sailors, being called to account by the crowd on the wharf, protested that Ireson would not let them go to the relief of the wrecked vessel. This was the spark needed to fire the train, and the infuriated mob seized Ireson, put him into an old dory, and dragged him toward Salem, intending, it seems, to carry him to Beverly, where they said he belonged, and show him to his own people.

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    OLD Flood Ireson! all too long

    Have jeer and jibe and ribald song

    Done thy memory cruel wrong.

    Old Flood Ireson, bending low

    Under the weight of years and woe,

    Crept to his refuge long ago.

    Old Flood Ireson sleeps in his grave;

    Howls of a mad mob, worse than the wave,

    Now no more in his ear shall rave!


    Gone is the pack and gone the prey,

    Yet old Flood Ireson’s ghost to-day

    Is hunted still down Time’s highway.

    Old wife Fame, with a fish-horn’s blare

    Hooting and tooting the same old air,

    Drags him along the old thoroughfare,

    Mocked evermore with the old refrain,

    Skilfully wrought to a tuneful strain,

    Jingling and jolting he comes again

    Over that road of old renown,

    Fair broad avenue, leading down

    Through South Fields to Salem town,

    Scourged and stung by the Muses’ thong,

    Mounted high on the car of song,

    Sight that cries, O Lord! how long

    Shall heaven look on and not take part

    With the poor old man and his fluttering heart,

    Tarred and feathered and carried in a cart?

    Old Flood Ireson, now when Fame

    Wipes away with tears of shame

    Stains from many an injured name,

    Shall not, in the tuneful line,

    Beams of truth and mercy shine

    Through the clouds that darken thine?

    Take henceforth, perturbéd sprite,

    From the fever and the fright,

    Take the rest,—thy well-earned right.

    Along the track of that hard ride

    The form of Penitence oft shall glide,

    With tender Pity by her side;

    And their tears, that mingling fall

    On the dark record they recall,

    Shall cleanse the stain and expiate all.