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

Southern States: Hatteras, the Cape, N. C.

Cape Hatteras

By Josiah W. Holden (1844–1874)


THE WIND KING from the North came down,

Nor stopped by river, mount, or town;

But, like a boisterous god at play,

Resistless bounding on his way,

He shook the lake and tore the wood,

And flapped his wings in merry mood,

Nor furled them, till he spied afar

The white caps flash on Hatteras bar,

Where fierce Atlantic landward bowls

O’er treacherous sands and hidden shoals.

He paused, then wreathed his horn of cloud,

And blew defiance long and loud:

“Come up! come up, thou torrid god,

That rul’st the Southern sea!

Ho! lightning-eyed and thunder-shod,

Come wrestle here with me!

As tossest thou the tangled cane,

I ’ll hurl thee o’er the boiling main!


“Come up! come up, thou torrid god,

Thou lightning-eyed and thunder-shod,

And wrestle here with me!”

’T was heard and answered: “Lo! I come

From azure Carribee,

To drive thee cowering to thy home,

And melt its walls of frozen foam.”

From every isle and mountain dell,

From plains of pathless chaparral,

From tide-built bars, where sea-birds dwell,

He drew his lurid legions forth,

And sprang to meet the white-plumed North.

Can mortal tongue in song convey

The fury of that fearful fray?

How ships were splintered at a blow,

Sails shivered into shreds of snow,

And seamen hurled to death below!

Two gods commingling, bolt and blast,

The huge waves on each other cast,

And bellowed o’er the raging waste;

Then sped, like harnessed steeds, afar,

That drag a shattered battle-car

Amid the midnight din of war!

False Hatteras! when the cyclone came,

Thy waves leapt up with hoarse acclaim

And ran and wrecked yon argosy!

Fore’er nine sunk! that lone hulk stands

Embedded in thy yellow sands,—

An hundred hearts in death there stilled,

And yet its ribs, with corpses filled,

Are now caressed by thee!


Yon lipless skull shall speak for me,

“This is the Golgotha of the sea!

And its keen hunger is the same

In winter’s frost or summer’s flame!

When life was young, adventure sweet,

I came with Walter Raleigh’s fleet,

But here my scattered bones have lain

And bleached for ages by the main!

Though lonely once, strange folk have come,

Till peopled is my barren home.

Enough are here. Oh, heed the cry,

Ye white-winged strangers sailing by!

The bark that lingers on this wave

Will find its smiling but a grave!

Then, tardy mariner, turn and flee,

A myriad wrecks are on thy lea!

With swelling sail and sloping mast,

Accept kind Heaven’s propitious blast!

O ship, sail on! O ship, sail fast,

Till, Golgotha’s quicksands being past,

Thou gain’st the open sea at last!”