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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

St. Minver

The Padstow Lifeboat

By Henry Sewell Stokes (1808–1895)

I SING no more of belted knights,

Or the pure blood they boast;

My song is of the sterner stuff

That guards our native coast:

The hearts of oak that grow all round

The islands where we dwell,

Whose names have less of Norman sound,

And easier are to spell.

At nine A. M., wind west-northwest,

And blowing half a gale,

Round Stepper Point a schooner came,

But under close-reefed sail.

’T is a wild place to fetch, the waves

Break on the Doombar sands,

And from the hills the eddying winds

Perplex the steadiest hands.

And now she glides in water smooth,

But the ebb-tide runs fast,

And suddenly the land-wind blows,

And shakes each bending mast:

Soon back to sea she drifts away,

Nearing St. Minver’s shore;

Then grounds, and o’er her deck the high

Atlantic billows pour.

Man, man the lifeboat! Many a crew

Her pride has been to save

In a stronger gale and darker hour,

And from a wilder wave.

Their names are: Harris, Truscott, French,

Hills, Cronnell, Brenton, May,

Varcoe, Bate, Bennett, Malyn, and

Intross and coastguard Shea.

All trusty men of pluck and strength,

And skill to guide withal;

Some more than some had proved their worth,

As chance to them did fall:

Shea for his human chivalry

The Imperial medal wore;

Intross and Varcoe’s breasts the words

“Crimea,” “Baltic,” bore.

One more, Hills, claims brief mention here,

No sturdier man than he;

In quest of Franklin’s bones he went

To the dread Arctic Sea.

Such was the staple of the crew,

Who worked with earnest will;

To see them breast the awful waves

Made the spectators thrill.

Towards the doomed ship their way they cleave,

But may not reach her side;

And then to Polzeath Bay they steer,

But stronger runs the tide:

The breakers, as they heave and burst,

The buoyant boat submerge;

O’erturned she rights,—again o’erturned,

She drifts upon the surge!

The watchers from Trebethic Cliff

And high Pentire rush down,

As dead or gasping on the rocks

The dauntless crew are thrown:

Of the thirteen but eight survive!

Shea, Truscott, breathe no more;

Varcoe and Cronnell, last Intross,

Come lifeless to the shore.

The schooner’s crew, five souls in all,

Save one the shore did reach,

Just where the stranded vessel lay,

On the Trebethic beach.

He, at the moment when she struck,

Was jerked into the wave;

And well he swam in sight of all,

But none was nigh to save.

The wail of widows pierced the night,

And on the starlit strand

The weeping children, fatherless,

Still lingered, hand in hand.

And love and pity thrilled men’s hearts,

For sorrow makes all kin;

And not to honor bravery

Were more than shame,—were sin.

Soon to the old churchyard the dead

Went with a countless throng;

All but the splendid Irishman,

So gentle, brave, and strong:

And him to lone Lanherne they took,

Where manly tears did fall,

While other rites his ashes blessed

Within that ancient wall.