Swiftest and most rapacious of the tribes
That swim the seas, art thou, marauder fierce;
Thou and the porpoise and the grampus huge,
Cruel and swift as sharks pursue their prey,
The pilchard, herring, and the bunker-shoals
Forever and forever in the tides.
When smooth are seas, with scarce a crest of foam,
Your schools in vast collected herds are seen
Leaping the waters, all in mad pursuit
Of mackerel and salmon o'er the deep.
Like packs of hungry hounds that hunt the hare
They gather round and swim from bay to bay,
Encircling with their fatal ring the prey.
There their vast numbers darken all the wave,
Rising ofttimes to breathe the upper air,
But when a tempest roughens the blue deep,
They roll and tumble in their antic sport,
For then no fish may tempt, for in the depths
Their frighten'd prey seek refuges unseen.
In ancient years the poets sang in verse,
Their fabled legends of the dolphin tribe,
Reciting their true love for humankind.
They sang that in all terrors of the main,
When the poor seamen were in shipwreck toss'd,
The loving dolphins to their rescue came,
And bore the drowning victims safe to shore;
And came to rescue when a hapless crew
Were cast by ruthless pirates in the deep;
And ever when a youthful swimmer sank
In the death gasp, the dolphin gave him help,
Bearing him up and bringing safe to shore.
Those painters and great sculptors of old time
Drew his lithe form in carv'd fantastic shape,
Bent like a bow, o'erleaping the salt wave.
Those poets fabled that in dying throes
The dolphin utters a sad, piteous moan
Like that of a human being as he dies.
But in these later years, the mariners
Dread the dark omen that their presence gives,
For when they see their sports, their gambollings,
They quick interpret them as signs of storm.
Warnings of shipwreck and impending death!