Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Wreck of “The Grace of Sunderland”
By Jean Ingelow (1820–1897)
 
                “HE’S a rare man,
Our parson; half a head above us all.”
 
“That’s a great gift, and notable,” said I.
 
“Ay, Sir; and when he was a younger man
He went out in the life-boat very oft,        5
Before ‘The Grace of Sunderland’ was wrecked.
He’s never been his own man since that hour;
For there were thirty men aboard of her,
Anigh as close as you are now to me,
And ne’er a one was saved.
            They’re lying now,
        10
With two small children, in a row: the church
And yard are full of seamen’s graves, and few
Have any names.

        She bumped upon the reef;
Our parson, my young son, and several more
Were lashed together with a two-inch rope,        15
And crept along to her; their mates ashore
Ready to haul them in. The gale was high,
The sea was all a boiling seething froth,
And God Almighty’s guns were going off,
And the land trembled.

        “When she took the ground,
        20
She went to pieces like a lock of hay
Tossed from a pitchfork. Ere it came to that,
The captain reeled on deck with two small things,
One in each arm—his little lad and lass.
Their hair was long and blew before his face,        25
Or else we thought he had been saved; he fell,
But held them fast. The crew, poor luckless souls!
The breakers licked them off; and some were crushed,
Some swallowed in the yeast, some flung up dead,
The dear breath beaten out of them: not one        30
Jumped from the wreck upon the reef to catch
The hands that strained to reach, but tumbled back
With eyes wide open. But the captain lay
And clung—the only man alive. They prayed—
‘For God’s sake, captain, throw the children here!’        35
‘Throw them!’ our parson cried; and then she struck:
And he threw one, a pretty two years’ child,
But the gale dashed him on the slippery verge,
And down he went. They say they heard him cry.
 
“Then he rose up and took the other one,        40
And all our men reached out their hungry arms,
And cried out, ‘Throw her, throw her!’ and he did.
He threw her right against the parson’s breast,
And all at once a sea broke over them,
And they that saw it from the shore have said        45
It struck the wreck, and piecemeal scattered it,
Just as a woman might the lump of salt
That ’twixt her hands into the kneading-pan
She breaks and crumbles on her rising bread.
 
“We hauled our men in: two of them were dead—        50
The sea had beaten them, their heads hung down;
Our parson’s arms were empty, for the wave
Had torn away the pretty, pretty lamb;
We often see him stand beside her grave:
But ’twas no fault of his, no fault of his.”        55
 
 
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