Off where the slender light-house lifts,
Like sheeted ghost, above the surge,
Casting its warning flames at night
Far to the dim horizon's verge
Round sunken reef and hidden rock
Where shells and sands inlay the floor
Of ocean, there the kingfish glide
And the sea's secret worlds explore.
Resplendent with their russet head,
Their silvery and azure sides,
They dart like meteoric showers
Across the salt tumultuous tides.
There anchor'd, when the tides are low
And first the young flood bubbling flows,
The fisher far the spinning line
Deep down with trustful ardor throws.
Seek them when roars the tumbling surf
Along the inlets of the shore,
When swift between the sandy banks
The tides thro' deepen'd channels pour.
Go where Fire Island opes its gate
To let the boisterous waters in,
Or where the surf at Barnegat
Thunders in hoarse, incessant din,
And there within the Inlet-jaws
When deep and darksome flows the tide,
Feeding in schools innumerous
The greedy kingfish gleam and glide.
The old colonial times
Nam'd this of all the fish the king;
The noblest, gamiest of the tribes
O'er ocean wandering.
It glows with evanescent tints
Of silvery hue and shades of gray,
With sides of bluish white, and fins
O'er which all rainbow glories play.
He is an eager fish to bite
At sand-worm or at shedder crab;
And when death-stung by barbed stab,
Heroic, stubborn, full of fight,
Quick to the bottom depths he flies,
Then dashes left and right,
Nor yields submissive till he dies.
At every wharf and pier and ledge
The anglers haste for perfect sport;
Along the Battery's grassy edge
And by the ancient fort,
Up the North River and the East,
Manhattan gather'd to the feast.
A century since those times hath past,
And when the British standard fell
From fortress wall and frigate mast,
Those noble fish all fled as well,
And few remain by stream and bay
The angler's efforts to repay.
Yet far along the Jersey shore,
Off Sandy Hook, Long Island Sound,
And where the Southern surges pour,
The kingfish still abound.
At inlet of the Barnegat,
Off Long Branch' sunny cliff and cove,
O'er hidden bar and muddy flat,
Their swarming myriads pour;
And far adown the Southern coast
Where Chesapeake bays expand,
And where Cape Hatteras tides are tossed,
And Florida's green strand,
They skim the wave, they plunge the deep,
And through the great Gulf onward sweep.