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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Three Bells

BENEATH the low-hung night cloud

That raked her splintering mast

The good ship settled slowly,

The cruel leak gained fast.

Over the awful ocean

Her signal guns pealed out.

Dear God! was that Thy answer

From the horror round about?

A voice came down the wild wind,

“Ho! ship ahoy!” its cry:

“Our stout Three Bells of Glasgow

Shall lay till daylight by!”

Hour after hour crept slowly,

Yet on the heaving swells

Tossed up and down the ship-lights,

The lights of the Three Bells!

And ship to ship made signals,

Man answered back to man,

While oft, to cheer and hearten,

The Three Bells nearer ran;

And the captain from her taffrail

Sent down his hopeful cry:

“Take heart! Hold on!” he shouted;

“The Three Bells shall lay by!”

All night across the waters

The tossing lights shone clear;

All night from reeling taffrail

The Three Bells sent her cheer.

And when the dreary watches

Of storm and darkness passed,

Just as the wreck lurched under,

All souls were saved at last.

Sail on, Three Bells, forever,

In grateful memory sail!

Ring on, Three Bells of rescue,

Above the wave and gale!

Type of the Love eternal,

Repeat the Master’s cry,

As tossing through our darkness

The lights of God draw nigh!