Kittery Annie’s Dream
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Written by Celia Thaxter

Kittery Annie's Dream

AN IMAGINED SEACOAST TRAGEDY

It is okay to fear the sea. As seacoast poet Celia Thaxter tells us in this 1871 verse, tragedy can come with the next crashing wave. Celia fans have most likely never seen this little-known poem that surfaced in our recent research.

 

 

 

 

READ: Much more on Celia Thaxter or more Seacoast Poems

A DEADLY SUDDEN WAVE

We bumped into this poem while flipping through an old copy of the Atlantic Monthly. It was new to us and, surprisingly, a solid and spooky poem by the Isles of Shoals poet Celia Thaxter. Celia and her husband Levi owned land in Kittery, Maine. Her husband and children are buried there.

We have, so far, no idea where the story of Kittery Annie came from. It focuses on the ever-present fear of sudden "rouge waves" that coastal dwellers know. In this poem Annie dreams that massive wave suddenly crashes against her door. Safe inside, she realizes with horror that her "bonny boys" are playing just outdoors by the ocean.

The story may come from Celia’s own experience. In her childhood, an enormous wave rolled over family’s Appledore Hotel. In another instance, a hotel employee named Miss Underhill was reportedly swept off the rocks at Star Island by a wave and never seen again.

While tourists to the Shoals may scoff at warnings of sudden isolated waves, locals know such freak events are not imaginary. In this poem Celia relates the story as a dream, saving the reader from a truly tragic tale. But she leaves the reader with the sense of dread, wondering if the next ocean breaker will become a deadly wave. Following the tragic tsunami in Asia in 2004, this sense of fear has been reinforced around the world.

Visitors to Kittery may want to check out SEA POINT BEACH, a point of land dedicated by the descendants of Celia Thaxter to her grand daughter Rosamund. -- JDR

Kittery Annie's Dream

 

 

Kittery Annie’s Dream
By Celia Thaxter

"WHAT ponder you, Kittery Annie,
That idle you sit in the sun,
Rocking the chair before you,
While your work lies all undone?"

Little Annie turned to her mistress.
" I think of my dream," she said
"It lies on my mind the livelong day,
A weight as heavy as lead."

"What dreamed you, Kittery Annie?
Come tell your dream to me."
"0, I thought I could not hear your voice,
For the thundering of the sea.

"From east and west and north and south
It gathered fierce and fast,
And raged about the quiet house
And reached the door at last.

"And just as if it raised a hand
And struck an angry blow,
A great wave beat against the door, —
Then silence seemed to grow."

"Did no one answer, Annie,
That awful knock at the door?"
"No ; waves were still, and winds were still,
And I heard nothing more."

The mother thought of her bonny sons,
And there crept to her heart a chill,
And ever she thought of the ravening sea,
And the dream that boded ill.

"0, is it my bonny boys it seeks,
Lashing the house around?
Or is it their comrade, tried and true,
Must in his prime be drowned?"

With his clear gray eyes and golden beard,
Like a strong young king of the sea,
The younger came, and, "Mother!" he said,
" 0 mother ! listen to me."

She answered him with a sudden cry:
" Our friend is gone ! " he said,
"0 mother, our comrade, tried and true,
At the foot of the rock lies dead.

"The breaker cuffed his shining head
And struck him from the light
And with a hundred arms the waves
Swift drew him out of sight.

"0, darkened are his kind blue eyes,
That were so fair to see,
And still and cold the ready hands
That worked so faithfully."

Sore mourned the younger brother,
But the elder did not speak
He bowed his head upon his breast,
With the salt tears on his cheek.

And no voice had the mother
For her heart that beat so wild,
But wistfully her eager eyes
Embraced each sorrowing child;

And as she saw from the windows
The breakers flash and gleam,
She shuddered afresh at the warning
In Kittery Annie’s dream.

 

This poem initially appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 27, issue 160 (February 1871).