O, thou ever restless sea,
"God's half-uttered mystery,"
Where are all the ships that sailed so gallantly away?
Tell us, will they never more
Furl their wings and come to shore?
Eyes still watch and fond hearts wait; precious freight had they.
Precious freight! ay, wealth untold,
More than merchandise or gold,
Did the stately vessels bear o'er the heaving main;
Human souls are dearer far
Than all earthly treasures are,
And for them we weep and pray; must it be in vain?
In the silence of the night,
Did they, with a wild affright,
Wake to hear the cry of FIRE! echo to the stars?
While the cruel, snake-like flame,
Creeping, coiling, hissing came
O'er the deck, and up the mast, and out along the spars!
As the doomed ship swayed and tossed
Like a mighty holocaust,
Did they with despairing cries leap into the waves?
Or with folded hands, and eyes
Lifted to the peaceful skies,
Calmly go with prayerful hearts to their nameless graves?
Did the black wings of the blast
Poise and hover o'er the mast,
Till at last in wrath they swept o'er the crowded deck?
Leaving not a soul to tell
How the long and awful swell
Of the ocean's troubled breast bore a dismal wreck;--
How amid the thunder's crash,
And the lightning's lurid flash,
(Autograph the Storm-king writes on his scroll of clouds,)
High above the deafening strife
Piteous cries were heard for life,
Fear-struck human beings seen clinging to the shrouds!
Or with shattered hulk and sail,
Riding out the stormy gale,
Did the brave ship slowly sink deeper day and night?
Drifting, drifting wearily
O'er the wide and trackless sea,
Loved ones starving, dying there with no sail in sight.
Or when winds and waves were hushed,
While each cheek with joy was flushed,
As they glided gently on, hope in every breast,
With a sudden gently on, hope in every breast,
With a sudden leap and shock,
Did they strike some hidden rock,
And go down, forever down to their dreamless rest?
Did the strange and spectral fleet
Of the icebergs round them meet,
Pressing closer till they sank crashing to the deep?
Do these crystal mountains loom,
Monuments of that vast tomb,
In the ocean's quiet depths where so many sleep?
O, thou ever-surging sea,
Vainly do we question thee;
Thy blue waves no answer bring as they kiss the strand;
But we know each coral grave,
Far beneath the rolling wave,
Shall at last give up its dead, touched by God's right hand.