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GRACE DARLING

          AMONG the dwellers in the silent fields
          The natural heart is touched, and public way
          And crowded street resound with ballad strains,
          Inspired by ONE whose very name bespeaks
          Favour divine, exalting human love;
          Whom, since her birth on bleak Northumbria's coast,
          Known unto few but prized as far as known,
          A single Act endears to high and low
          Through the whole land--to Manhood, moved in spite
          Of the world's freezing cares--to generous Youth--          10
          To Infancy, that lisps her praise--to Age
          Whose eye reflects it, glistening through a tear
          Of tremulous admiration. Such true fame
          Awaits her 'now'; but, verily, good deeds
          Do not imperishable record find
          Save in the rolls of heaven, where hers may live
          A theme for angels, when they celebrate
          The high-souled virtues which forgetful earth
          Has witnessed. Oh! that winds and waves could speak
          Of things which their united power called forth             20
          From the pure depths of her humanity!
          A Maiden gentle, yet, at duty's call,
          Firm and unflinching, as the Lighthouse reared
          On the Island-rock, her lonely dwelling-place;
          Or like the invincible Rock itself that braves,
          Age after age, the hostile elements,
          As when it guarded holy Cuthbert's cell.
            All night the storm had raged, nor ceased, nor paused,
          When, as day broke, the Maid, through misty air,
          Espies far off a Wreck, amid the surf,                      30
          Beating on one of those disastrous isles--
          Half of a Vessel, half--no more; the rest
          Had vanished, swallowed up with all that there
          Had for the common safety striven in vain,
          Or thither thronged for refuge. With quick glance
          Daughter and Sire through optic-glass discern,
          Clinging about the remnant of this Ship,
          Creatures--how precious in the Maiden's sight!
          For whom, belike, the old Man grieves still more
          Than for their fellow-sufferers engulfed                    40
          Where every parting agony is hushed,
          And hope and fear mix not in further strife.
          "But courage, Father! let us out to sea--
          A few may yet be saved." The Daughter's words,
          Her earnest tone, and look beaming with faith,
          Dispel the Father's doubts: nor do they lack
          The noble-minded Mother's helping hand
          To launch the boat; and with her blessing cheered,
          And inwardly sustained by silent prayer,
          Together they put forth, Father and Child!                  50
          Each grasps an oar, and struggling on they go--
          Rivals in effort; and, alike intent
          Here to elude and there surmount, they watch
          The billows lengthening, mutually crossed
          And shattered, and re-gathering their might;
          As if the tumult, by the Almighty's will
          Were, in the conscious sea, roused and prolonged
          That woman's fortitude--so tried, so proved--
          May brighten more and more!
                                       True to the mark,
          They stem the current of that perilous gorge,
          Their arms still strengthening with the strengthening 
              heart,                                                  60
          Though danger, as the Wreck is neared, becomes
          More imminent. Not unseen do they approach;
          And rapture, with varieties of fear
          Incessantly conflicting, thrills the frames
          Of those who, in that dauntless energy,
          Foretaste deliverance; but the least perturbed
          Can scarcely trust his eyes, when he perceives
          That of the pair--tossed on the waves to bring
          Hope to the hopeless, to the dying, life--
          One is a Woman, a poor earthly sister,                      70
          Or, be the Visitant other than she seems,
          A guardian Spirit sent from pitying Heaven,
          In woman's shape. But why prolong the tale,
          Casting weak words amid a host of thoughts
          Armed to repel them? Every hazard faced
          And difficulty mastered, with resolve
          That no one breathing should be left to perish,
          This last remainder of the crew are all
          Placed in the little boat, then o'er the deep
          Are safely borne, landed upon the beach,                    80
          And, in fulfilment of God's mercy, lodged
          Within the sheltering Lighthouse.--Shout, ye Waves
          Send forth a song of triumph. Waves and Winds,
          Exult in this deliverance wrought through faith
          In Him whose Providence your rage hath served!
          Ye screaming Sea-mews, in the concert join!
          And would that some immortal Voice--a Voice
          Fitly attuned to all that gratitude
          Breathes out from floor or couch, through pallid lips
          Of the survivors--to the clouds might bear--                90
          Blended with praise of that parental love,
          Beneath whose watchful eye the Maiden grew
          Pious and pure, modest and yet so brave,
          Though young so wise, though meek so resolute--
          Might carry to the clouds and to the stars,
          Yea, to celestial Choirs, GRACE DARLING'S name!
                                                              1843.


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