Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
By Jean Ingelow (1820–1897)
WINSTANLEY’S deed, you kindly folk,
  With it I fill my lay,
And a nobler man ne’er walked the world,
  Let his name be what it may.
The good ship “Snowdrop” tarried long,        5
  Up at the vane looked he;
“Belike,” he said, for the wind had dropped,
  “She lieth becalmed at sea.”
The lovely ladies flocked within,
  And still would each one say,        10
“Good mercer, be the ships come up?”
  But still he answered, “Nay.”
Then stepped two mariners down the street,
  With looks of grief and fear:
“Now, if Winstanley be your name,        15
  We bring you evil cheer!
“For the good ship ‘Snowdrop’ struck,—she struck
  On the rock,—the Eddystone,
And down she went with threescore men,
  We two being left alone.        20
“Down in the deep, with freight and crew,
  Past any help she lies,
And never a bale has come to shore
  Of all thy merchandise.”
“For cloth o’ gold and comely frieze,”        25
  Winstanley said, and sighed,
“For velvet coif, or costly coat,
  They fathoms deep may bide.
“O thou brave skipper, blithe and kind,
  O mariners, bold and true,        30
Sorry at heart, right sorry am I,
  A-thinking of yours and you.
“Many long days Winstanley’s breast
  Shall feel a weight within,
For a waft of wind he shall be ’feared,        35
  And trading count but sin.
“To him no more it shall be joy
  To pace the cheerful town,
And see the lovely ladies gay
  Step on in velvet gown.”        40
The “Snowdrop” sank at Lammas tide,
  All under the yeasty spray;
On Christmas Eve the brig “Content”
  Was also cast away.
He little thought o’ New Year’s night,        45
  So jolly as he sat then,
While drank the toast and praised the roast
  The round-faced Aldermen,—
While serving lads ran to and fro,
  Pouring the ruby wine,        50
And jellies trembled on the board,
  And towering pasties fine,—
While loud huzzas ran up the roof
  Till the lamps did rock o’erhead,
And holly-boughs from rafters hung        55
  Dropped down their berries red,—
He little thought on Plymouth Hoe,
  With every rising tide,
How the wave washed in his sailor lads,
  And laid them side by side.        60
There stepped a stranger to the board:
  “Now, stranger, who be ye?”
He looked to right, he looked to left,
  And “Rest you merry,” quoth he;
For you did not see the brig go down,        65
  Or ever a storm had blown;
For you did not see the white wave rear
  At the rock,—the Eddystone.
“She drave at the rock with stern-sails set;
  Crash went the masts in twain;        70
She staggered back with her mortal blow,
  Then leaped at it again.
“There rose a great cry, bitter and strong;
  The misty moon looked out!
And the water swarmed with seamen’s heads,        75
  And the wreck was strewed about.
“I saw her mainsail lash the sea
  As I clung to the rock alone;
Then she heeled over, and down she went,
  And sank like any stone.        80
“She was a fair ship, but all’s one!
  For naught could bide the shock.”
“I will take horse,” Winstanley said,
  “And see this deadly rock.
“For never again shall bark o’ mine        85
  Sail over the windy sea,
Unless, by the blessing of God, for this
  Be found a remedy.”
Winstanley rode to Plymouth town
  All in the sleet and the snow;        90
And he looked around on shore and sound,
  As he stood on Plymouth Hoe.
Till a pillar of spray rose far away,
  And shot up its stately head,
Reared, and fell over, and reared again:        95
  “Tis the rock! the rock!” he said.
Straight to the Mayor he took his way;
  “Good Master Mayor,” quoth he,
“I am a mercer of London town,
  And owner of vessels three,—        100
“But for your rock of dark renown,
  I had five to track the main.”
“You are one of many,” the old Mayor said,
  “That on the rock complain.
“An ill rock, mercer! your words ring right,        105
  Well with my thoughts they chime,
For my two sons to the world to come
  It sent before their time.”
“Lend me a lighter, good Master Mayor,
  And a score of shipwrights free,        110
For I think to raise a lantern tower
  On this rock o’ destiny.”
The old Mayor laughed, but sighed alsó:
  “Ah, youth,” quoth he, “is rash;
Sooner, young man, thou’lt root it out        115
  From the sea that doth it lash.
“Who sails too near its jagged teeth,
  He shall have evil lot;
For the calmest seas that tumble there
  Froth like a boiling pot.        120
“And the heavier seas few look on nigh,
  But straight they lay him dead;
A seventy-gun-ship, sir!—they’ll shoot
  Higher than her masthead.
“Oh, beacons sighted in the dark,        125
  They are right welcome things,
And pitchpots flaming on the shore
  Show fair as angel wings.
“Hast gold in hand? then light the land,
  It ’longs to thee and me;        130
But let alone the deadly rock
  In God Almighty’s sea.”
Yet said he, “Nay,—I must away,
  On the rock to set my feet;
My debts are paid, my will I made,        135
  Or ever I did thee greet.
“If I must die, then let me die
  By the rock, and not elswhere;
If I may live, O let me live
  To mount my lighthouse stair.”        140
The old Mayor looked him in the face,
  And answered, “Have thy way;
Thy heart is stout, as if round about
  It was braced with an iron stay:
“Have thy will, mercer! choose thy men,        145
  Put off from the storm-rid shore;
God with thee be, or I shall see
  Thy face and theirs no more.”
Heavily plunged the breaking wave,
  And foam flew up the lea,        150
Morning and even the drifted snow
  Fell into the dark gray sea.
Winstanley chose him men and gear;
  He said, “My time I waste,”
For the seas ran seething up the shore,        155
  And the wrack drave on in haste.
But twenty days he waited and more,
  Pacing the strand alone,
Or ever he sat his manly foot
  On the rock,—the Eddystone.        160
Then he and the sea began their strife,
  And worked with power and might:
Whatever the man reared up by day
  The sea broke down by night.
He wrought at ebb with bar and beam,        165
  He sailed to shore at flow;
And at his side, by that same tide,
  Came bar and beam alsó.
“Give in, give in,” the old Mayor cried,
  “Or thou wilt rue the day.”        170
“Yonder he goes,” the townsfolk sighed,
  But the rock will have its way.
“For all his looks that are so stout,
  And his speeches brave and fair,
He may wait on the wind, wait on the wave,        175
  But he’ll build no lighthouse there.”
In fine weather and foul weather
  The rock his arts did flout,
Through the long days and the short days,
  Till all that year ran out.        180
With fine weather and foul weather
  Another year came in;
“To take his wage,” the workmen said,
  “We almost count a sin.”
Now March was gone, came April in,        185
  And a sea-fog settled down,
And forth sailed he on a glassy sea,
  He sailed from Plymouth town.
With men and stores he put to sea,
  As he was wont to do:        190
They showed in the fog like ghosts full faint,—
  A ghostly craft and crew.
And the sea-fog lay and waxed alway,
  For a long eight days and more;
“God help our men,” quoth the women then;        195
  “For they bide long from shore.”
They paced the Hoe in doubt and dread:
  “Where may our mariners be?”
But the brooding fog lay soft as down
  Over the quiet sea.        200
A Scottish schooner made the port,
  The thirteenth day at e’en;
“As I am a man,” the captain cried,
  “A strange sight I have seen:
“And a strange sound heard, my masters all,        205
  At sea, in the fog and the rain,
Like shipwrights’ hammers tapping low,
  Then loud, then low again.
“And a stately house one instant showed,
  Through a rift, on the vessel’s lee;        210
What manner of creatures may be those
  That built upon the sea?”
Then sighed the folk, “The Lord be praised!”
  And they flocked to the shore amain:
All over the Hoe that livelong night,        215
  Many stood out in the rain.
It ceased; and the red sun reared his head,
  And the rolling fog did flee;
And, lo! in the offing faint and far
  Winstanley’s house at sea!        220
In fair weather with mirth and cheer
  The stately tower uprose;
In foul weather, with hunger and cold,
  They were content to close;
Till up the stair Winstanley went,        225
  To fire the wick afar;
And Plymouth in the silent night
  Looked out, and saw her star.
Winstanley set his foot ashore:
  Said he, “My work is done;        230
I hold it strong to last as long
  As aught beneath the sun.
“But if it fail, as fail it may,
  Borne down with ruin and rout,
Another than I shall rear it high,        235
  And brace the girders stout.
“A better than I shall rear it high,
  For now the way is plain;
And though I were dead,” Winstanley said,
  “The light would shine again.        240
“Yet were I fain still to remain,
  Watch in my tower to keep,
And tend my light in the stormiest night
  That ever did move the deep;
“And if it stood, why then ’twere good,        245
  Amid their tremulous stirs,
To count each stroke when the mad waves broke,
  For cheers of mariners.
“But if it fell, then this were well,
  That I should with it fall;        250
Since, for my part, I have built my heart
  In the courses of its wall.
“Ay! I were fain, long to remain,
  Watch in my tower to keep,
And tend my light in the stormiest night        255
  That ever did move the deep.”
With that Winstanley went his way,
  And left the rock renowned,
And summer and winter his pilot star
  Hung bright o’er Plymouth Sound.        260
But it fell out, fell out at last,
  That he would put to sea,
To scan once more his lighthouse tower
  On the rock o’ destiny.
And the winds broke, and the storm broke,        265
  And wrecks came plunging in;
None in the town that night lay down
  Or sleep or rest to win.
The great mad waves were rolling graves,
  And each flung up its dead;        270
The seething flow was white below,
  And black the sky o’erhead.
And when the dawn, the dull, gray dawn,—
  Broke on the trembling town,
And men looked south to the harbor mouth,        275
  The lighthouse tower was down.
Down in the deep where he doth sleep,
  Who made it shine afar,
And then in the night that drowned its light,
  Set, with his pilot star.        280
Many fair tombs in the glorious glooms
  At Westminster they show;
The brave and the great lie there in state:
  Winstanley lieth low.

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