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

Southern States: Mexico, the Gulf

The Burial of the Dane

By Henry Howard Brownell (1820–1872)

BLUE gulf all around us,

Blue sky overhead,—

Muster all on the quarter,

We must bury the dead!

It is but a Danish sailor,

Rugged of front and form;

A common son of the forecastle,

Grizzled with sun and storm.

His name and the strand he hailed from

We know,—and there ’s nothing more!

But perhaps his mother is waiting

In the lonely island of Fohr.

Still, as he lay there dying,

Reason drifting awreck,

“’T is my watch,” he would mutter,

“I must go upon deck!”

Ay, on deck,—by the foremast!—

But watch and lookout are done;

The Union-Jack laid o’er him,

How quiet he lies in the sun!

Slow the ponderous engine,

Stay the hurrying shaft!

Let the roll of the ocean

Cradle our giant craft,—

Gather around the grating,

Carry your messmate aft!

Stand in order, and listen

To the holiest page of prayer!

Let every foot be quiet,

Every head be bare,—

The soft trade-wind is lifting

A hundred locks of hair.

Our captain reads the service

(A little spray on his cheeks),

The grand old words of burial,

And the trust a true heart seeks,—

“We therefore commit his body

To the deep,”—and, as he speaks,

Launched from the weather-railing,

Swift as the eye can mark,

The ghastly, shotted hammock

Plunges, away from the shark,

Down, a thousand fathoms,

Down into the dark!

A thousand summers and winters

The stormy Gulf shall roll

High o’er his canvas coffin,—

But, silence to doubt and dole!

There ’s a quiet harbor somewhere

For the poor aweary soul.

Free the fettered engine,

Speed the tireless shaft!

Loose to’gallant and topsail,

The breeze is fair abaft!

Blue sea all around us,

Blue sky bright o’erhead,—

Every man to his duty!

We have buried our dead.