1] The editor prefaces the poem with the following note:
"In the valuable and carefully prepared His tory of Marblehead, published in 1879 by Samuel Roads, Jr., it is stated that the crew of Captain Ireson, rather than himself, were responsible for the abandonment of the dis abled vessel. To screen themselves they charged their captain with the crime. In view of this the writer of the ballad addressed the following letter to the historian:---
OAK KNOLL, DANVERS, 5 mo. 18, 1880.
MY DEAR FRIEND: I heartily thank thee for a copy of thy History of Marblehead. I have read it with great interest and think good use has been made of the abundant material. No town in Essex County has a record more honorable than Marblehead; no one has done more to develop the industrial interests of our New England seaboard, and certainly none have given such evidence of self-sacrificing patriotism. I am glad the story of it has been at last told, and told so well. I have now no doubt that thy version of Skipper Ireson's ride is the correct one. My verse was founded solely on a fragment of rhyme which I heard from one of my early schoolmates, a native of Marblehead.
I supposed the story to which it referred dated back at least a century. I knew nothing of the participators, and the narrative of the ballad was pure fancy. I am glad for the sake of truth and justice that the real facts are given in thy book. I certainly would not knowingly do injustice to any one, dead or living.
I am very truly thy friend,
JOHN G. WHITTIER."
Skipper Ireson's first name was Benjamin, and his nickname Flood. Back to Line
3] Apuleius's Golden Ass: a fictional autobiography of the author, born about 114 A.D. in Madaura in Africa, in which tale he is transformed into an ass, as which he sees the many follies of man until restored to human form by the goddess Isis. Back to Line
4] one-eyed Calender's horse of brass: reference untraced. Back to Line
6] Islam's prophet on Al-Borák: the horse Al-Borák bore Mohammed from Mecca to Jerusalem. Back to Line
8] Marblehead: township north of Boston and Lynn on Massachusetts Bay on the Atlantic ocean, originally part of Salem. Back to Line
26] Bacchus: Dionysius, the Greek god of wine, often depicted with Mænads. Back to Line
29] conch-shells: mollusc shells employed as horns (OED "conch" 8, "conch-shell"). Back to Line
45] Chaleur Bay is off the Gulf of St. Lawrence near the Gaspe peninsula (if that is what is meant here). Back to Line