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

New England: Gloucester, Mass.

The Phantom Boat

By E. Norman Gunnison (1836?–1880)


THE TIDE comes in, and the tide goes out,

And the rollers break on the harbor bar,

And up from the distance comes a sail,

Gleaming white, ’neath the morning star.

Fishing tackle and boats on deck,

Running rigging, belayed and trim;

Raking spars,—’t is no battered wreck

Sailing out in the distance dim.

It draws not near, though the wind is fair,

The sheets are free, but it comes not nigh,

But hangs, a point on the morning air,

A pictured sail, ’twixt the sea and sky.

“Fisherman, tell me why yonder boat

Sails, and no nearer comes to shore;

Nor in the distance grows remote,

Nor a ripple her bow breaks o’er.”

“Stranger, I reckon you are n’t here long:

Many a year her pennant flew.

Old is the story; a worn-out song,

But her deck is trod by no mortal crew.

“Look a moment, and see the flame

Gleaming white over mast and spar;

Here, take my glass; you can read the name

Under her starn; ’t is the Alice Marr.

“Alice Marr was a fair young girl,

Long ago in Glos’ter town;

Rippling tresses and sunny curl,

Rare red lips, and a check of brown.

“That was Alice, the fisher’s pride;

Lovers sought her from near and far;

She was John Ackman’s promised bride:

He named his vessel the Alice Marr.

“Thar ’s nothing sartin, stranger, in life;

We ’re gone to-morrow, though here to-day:

Another v’yage she would be his wife,

At least so I ’ve hearn the gossips say.

“Pork, potatoes, and hard-tack stowed,

Water in barrels, and water in tanks,

Nicely fixed for a three months’ cruise,

He sailed away for the fishing-banks.


“Months rolled on, and never a word;

Six months, twelve months: on the day

That finished the year was a rumor heard

Of the Alice Marr in the outer bay.

“Boats put out, but they drew not near,

Slowly, silently, on she steered:

‘Skipper Ackman! ho! what cheer!’

She had vanished, had disappeared.

“Ever, as rolls the year around

Bringing again her sailing day,

Rises her hull from the depths profound,

And slowly cruises the outer bay.

“Not a word of her master’s fate;

Only a glimmer of sail and spar;

Not a word of her crew or mate,—

This is the ghost of the Alice Marr.

“Still she watched down the peaceful bay,

Still her eye scanned each gathering cloud:

Years receded, and, worn and gray,

Her wedding dress was her funeral shroud.”