Rockall

Original Text: 
Epes Sargent, Songs of the Sea, with Other Poems (Boston: James Monroe, 1847): 44-46. Internet Archive
2Or some mysterious spirit's tenement,
3Risest amid this weltering waste of waves,
4Lonely and desolate, thy spreading base
5Is planted in the sea's unmeasured depths,
6Where rolls the huge leviathan o'er sands
7Glistening with shipwrecked treasures. The strong wind
8Flings up thy sides a veil of feathery spray
9With sunbeams interwoven, and the hues
10Which mingle in the rainbow. From thy top
11The sea-birds rise, and sweep with sidelong flight
12Downward upon their prey; or, with poised wings,
13Skim to the horizon o'er the glittering deep.
14    Our bark, careening to the welcome breeze,
15With white sails filled and streamers all afloat,
16Shakes from her dipping prow the foam, while we
17Gaze on thy outline mingling in the void,
18And draw our breath like men who see, amazed,
19Some mighty pageant passing. What had been
20Our fate last night, if, when the aspiring waves
21Were toppling o'er our mainmast, and the stars
22Were shrouded in black vapors, we had struck
23Full on thy sea-bound pinnacles, Rockall!
24    But now another prospect greets our sight,
25And hope elate is rising with our hearts:
26Intensely blue, the sky's resplendent arch
27Bends over all serenely; not a cloud
28Mars its pure radiance; not a shadow dims
29The flashing billows. The refreshing air
30It is a luxury to feel and breathe;
31The senses are made keener, and drink in
32The life, the joy, the beauty of the scene.
33    Repeller of the wild and thundering surge!
34For ages has the baffled tempest howled
35By thee with all its fury, and piled up
36The massive waters like a falling tower
37To dash thee down; but there thou risest yet,
38As calm amid the roar of storms, the shock
39Of waves uptorn, and hurled against thy front,
40As when, on summer eves, the crimsoned main,
41In lingering undulations, girds thee round!
42    O, might I stand as steadfast and as free
43'Mid the fierce strife and tumult of the world,
44The crush of all the elements of woe, --
45Unshaken by their terrors, looking forth
46With placid eye on life's uncertain sea,
47Whether its waves were darkly swelling high
48Or dancing in the sunshine, -- then might frown
49The clouds of fate around me! Firm in faith,
50Pointing serenely to that better world,
51Where there is peace, would I abide the storm,
52Unmindful of its rage and of its end.

Notes

1] "Rockall is a solid block of granite, growing, as it were, out of the sea, at a greater distance from the main land, probably, than any other island or rock of the same diminutive size in the world. It is only seventy feet high, and not more than a hundred yards in circumference. It lies at a distance of no fewer than one hundred and eighty-four miles nearly due west of St. Kilda, the remotest part of the Hebrides, and is two hundred and sixty miles from the north of Ireland." (poet's note) Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire / Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012
Rhyme: 
Form: