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Shipwreck on the Shoals

 
TWO SHIPWRECK POEMS  (continued)

WRECK OF THE SEGUNTUM
By James Kennard Jr. (1849)

Original Editor's Note in 1865: The Spanish ship "Seguntum"
was wrecked on the Isles of Shoals in the winter of 1813,
and all hands on board perished.

Fast o'er the seas, a favoring breeze
The Spanish ship had borne:
The sailors thought to reach their port
Ere rose another morn.

As sank the sun, the bark dashed on,
The green sea cleaving fast;
Ah ! little knew the reckless crew
That night should be their last.

They little thought their destined port
Should be the foaming surge;
That, long ere morn again should dawn,
The winds should wail their dirge!

As twilight fades, and evening shades
Are deepening into night,
The sky grows black, and driving rack
Obscures the starry light.

And loudly now the storm-winds blow,
And through the rigging roar;
They find, too late to shun their fate,
They're on a leeward shore.

'Mid snow and hail they shorten sail;
The bark blows 'neath the blast;
And as the billows rise and break,
She's borne to leeward fast.

The straining ship drives through the seas,
Close lying to the wind;
The spray, on all where it doth fall,
Becomes an icy wind.

It strikes upon the shrinking face
As sharp as needles' prick;
And ever, as the ship doth pitch,
The shower comes fast and thick.

And with it comes the driving snow,
Borne on the bitter blast:
The helmsman scarce the compass sees,
It flies so keen and fast.

A sound of fear strikes on the ear:
It is the awful roar
Of dashing breakers, dead ahead,
Upon the rocky shore!

"Wear ship ! hard up, hard up your helm!"
Aloud the captain cries:
Slowly her head pays off and now
Before the wind she flies.

Now on the other tack, close braced,
She holds her foaming course:
Short respite then ! too soon again
Are heard the breakers hoarse!

Ahead, to windward and to lee,
The foaming surges roar:
"O Holy Virgin ! save us now,
And we will sin no more!"

"We vow to lead a holy life;"
Too late ! alas, too late!
Their vows and plaints to imaged saints
Cannot avert their fate.

They strike a rock ; O God ! the shock!
They vanish in that surge!
Through mast and shroud the tempest loud
Howls forth a dismal urge.

Their lives not one to greet the sun,
Or tell the tales at home;
A winding-sheet for sailors meet,
The waves around them foam.

The storm is o'er : the rocky shore
Lies strewn with many a corpse,
Disfigured by the angry surf
That is still murmuring hoarse.

And thus the Spanish crew were found,
Cast on those barren isles;
There, in unconsecrated ground,
They rest them from their toils.

No mourners stood around their graves,
No friends above them wept;
A hasty prayer was uttered there, --
Unknown, unknelled, they slept.

Original Editor's 1865 Footnote: Their graves are still to be seen on one of the Isles of Shoals. These islands lie off the harbor of Portsmouth, N.H., nine miles from the mouth of the Piscataqua.

From "Poets of Portsmouth", Edited by Aurin M. M. Payson and Albert Laighton, 1865. Appeared originally in "The Knickerbocker" in February 1847, and in "Selections from the Writings of James Kennard, Jr.", Boston, 1849

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