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

New England: Minot’s Ledge, Mass.

Minot’s Ledge

By Fitz-James O’Brien (1828–1862)

LIKE spectral hounds across the sky,

The white clouds scud before the storm;

And naked in the howling night

The red-eyed lighthouse lifts its form.

The waves with slippery fingers clutch

The massive tower, and climb and fall,

And, muttering, growl with baffled rage

Their curses on the sturdy wall.

Up in the lonely tower he sits,

The keeper of the crimson light:

Silent and awestruck does he hear

The imprecations of the night.

The white spray beats against the panes

Like some wet ghost that down the air

Is hunted by a troop of fiends,

And seeks a shelter anywhere.

He prays aloud, the lonely man,

For every soul that night at sea,

But more than all for that brave boy

Who used to gayly climb his knee,—

Young Charlie, with his chestnut hair

And hazel eyes and laughing lip.

“May Heaven look down,” the old man cries,

“Upon my son, and on his ship!”

While thus with pious heart he prays,

Far in the distance sounds a boom:

He pauses; and again there rings

That sullen thunder through the room.

A ship upon the shoals to-night!

She cannot hold for one half-hour;

But clear the ropes and grappling-hooks,

And trust in the Almighty Power!

On the drenched gallery he stands,

Striving to pierce the solid night:

Across the sea the red eye throws

A steady crimson wake of light;

And, where it falls upon the waves,

He sees a human head float by,

With long drenched curls of chestnut hair,

And wild but fearless hazel eye.

Out with the hooks! One mighty fling!

Adown the wind the long rope curls.

Oh, will it catch? Ah, dread suspense!

While the wild ocean wilder whirls.

A steady pull; it tightens now:

Oh! his old heart will burst with joy,

As on the slippery rocks he pulls

The breathing body of his boy.

Still sweep the spectres through the sky;

Still scud the clouds before the storm;

Still naked in the howling night

The red-eyed lighthouse lifts its form.

Without, the world is wild with rage;

Unkennelled demons are abroad:

But with the father and the son

Within, there is the peace of God.