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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI. 1876–79.

Miscellaneous: The Ocean

Reefing Topsails

By Alfred Domett (1811–1887)

(From Ranolf and Amohia)

A NOBLE sport and my delight—

That reefing topsails! just to make all right,

Ere the wind freshens to a gale at night.

See! clambering nimbly up the shrouds,

Go, thick as bees, the sailor-crowds;

The smartest for the post of honor vie

That weather yard-arm pointing to the sky:

They gather at the topmast-head,

And dark against the darkling cloud

Sidling along the foot-ropes spread;

Dim figures o’er the yard-arm bowed,

How with the furious sail, a glorious sight,

Up in the darkness of the sky they fight!

While by the fierce encounter troubled

The heavy pitching of the ship is doubled;

The big sail’s swelling, surging volumes, full

Of wind, the strong reef-tackle half restrains;

And like some lasso-tangled bull

Checked in its mid career of savage might

O’er far La Plata’s plains,

It raves and tugs and plunges to get free,

And flaps and bellows in its agony!

But slowly yielding to its scarce-seen foes

Faint and more faint its frenzied struggling grows;

Till, by its frantic rage at length

Exhausted, like that desert-ranger’s strength,

Silent and still, it seems to shrink and close;

Then, tight comprest, the reef-points firmly tied,

Down to the deck again the sailors glide;

And easier now, with calm concentred force,

The ship bounds forward on her lightened course.