Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > England
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV.  1876–79.
 
St. Minver
The Padstow Lifeboat
Henry Sewell Stokes (1808–1895)
 
I SING no more of belted knights,
  Or the pure blood they boast;
My song is of the sterner stuff
  That guards our native coast:
The hearts of oak that grow all round        5
  The islands where we dwell,
Whose names have less of Norman sound,
  And easier are to spell.
 
At nine A. M., wind west-northwest,
  And blowing half a gale,        10
Round Stepper Point a schooner came,
  But under close-reefed sail.
’T is a wild place to fetch, the waves
  Break on the Doombar sands,
And from the hills the eddying winds        15
  Perplex the steadiest hands.
 
And now she glides in water smooth,
  But the ebb-tide runs fast,
And suddenly the land-wind blows,
  And shakes each bending mast:        20
Soon back to sea she drifts away,
  Nearing St. Minver’s shore;
Then grounds, and o’er her deck the high
  Atlantic billows pour.
 
Man, man the lifeboat! Many a crew        25
  Her pride has been to save
In a stronger gale and darker hour,
  And from a wilder wave.
Their names are: Harris, Truscott, French,
  Hills, Cronnell, Brenton, May,        30
Varcoe, Bate, Bennett, Malyn, and
  Intross and coastguard Shea.
 
All trusty men of pluck and strength,
  And skill to guide withal;
Some more than some had proved their worth,        35
  As chance to them did fall:
Shea for his human chivalry
  The Imperial medal wore;
Intross and Varcoe’s breasts the words
  “Crimea,” “Baltic,” bore.        40
 
One more, Hills, claims brief mention here,
  No sturdier man than he;
In quest of Franklin’s bones he went
  To the dread Arctic Sea.
Such was the staple of the crew,        45
  Who worked with earnest will;
To see them breast the awful waves
  Made the spectators thrill.
 
Towards the doomed ship their way they cleave,
  But may not reach her side;        50
And then to Polzeath Bay they steer,
  But stronger runs the tide:
The breakers, as they heave and burst,
  The buoyant boat submerge;
O’erturned she rights,—again o’erturned,        55
  She drifts upon the surge!
 
The watchers from Trebethic Cliff
  And high Pentire rush down,
As dead or gasping on the rocks
  The dauntless crew are thrown:        60
Of the thirteen but eight survive!
  Shea, Truscott, breathe no more;
Varcoe and Cronnell, last Intross,
  Come lifeless to the shore.
 
The schooner’s crew, five souls in all,        65
  Save one the shore did reach,
Just where the stranded vessel lay,
  On the Trebethic beach.
He, at the moment when she struck,
  Was jerked into the wave;        70
And well he swam in sight of all,
  But none was nigh to save.
 
The wail of widows pierced the night,
  And on the starlit strand
The weeping children, fatherless,        75
  Still lingered, hand in hand.
And love and pity thrilled men’s hearts,
  For sorrow makes all kin;
And not to honor bravery
  Were more than shame,—were sin.        80
 
Soon to the old churchyard the dead
  Went with a countless throng;
All but the splendid Irishman,
  So gentle, brave, and strong:
And him to lone Lanherne they took,        85
  Where manly tears did fall,
While other rites his ashes blessed
  Within that ancient wall.
 
 
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