Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
Sir Humphrey Gilbert
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
 
[From Poetical Works. 1887.]

SOUTHWARD with fleet of ice
  Sailed the corsair Death;
Wild and fast blew the blast,
  And the east-wind was his breath.
 
His lordly ships of ice        5
  Glisten in the sun;
On each side, like pennons wide,
  Flashing crystal streamlets run.
 
His sails of white sea-mist
  Dripped with silver rain;        10
But where he passed there were cast
  Leaden shadows o’er the main.
 
Eastward from Campobello
  Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed;
Three days or more seaward he bore        15
  Then, alas! the land-wind failed.
 
Alas! the land-wind failed,
  And ice-cold grew the night;
And nevermore, on sea or shore,
  Should Sir Humphrey see the light.        20
 
He sat upon the deck,
  The Book was in his hand;
“Do not fear! Heaven is as near,”
  He said, “by water as by land!”
 
In the first watch of the night,        25
  Without a signal’s sound,
Out of the sea, mysteriously,
  The fleet of Death rose all around.
 
The moon and the evening star
  Were hanging in the shrouds;        30
Every mast, as it passed,
  Seemed to rake the passing clouds.
 
They grappled with their prize,
  At midnight black and cold!
As of a rock was the shock;        35
  Heavily the ground-swell rolled.
 
Southward through day and dark,
  They drift in close embrace,
With mist and rain, o’er the open main;
  Yet there seems no change of place.        40
 
Southward, forever southward,
  They drift through dark and day;
And like a dream, in the Gulf-Stream
  Sinking, vanish all away.

  1849.
 
 
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