Sir Humphrey Gilbert

Original Text: 
The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with Bibliographical and Critical Notes, Riverside Edition (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1890), I, 263-65. PS 2250 E90 Robarts Library.
1Southward with fleet of ice
2Sailed the corsair Death;
3Wild and gast blew the blast,
4And the east-wind was his breath.
5His lordly ships of ice
6Glisten in the sun;
7On each side, like pennons wide,
8Flashing crystal streamlets run.
9His sails of white sea-mist
10Dripped with silver rain;
11But where he passed there were cast
12Leaden shadows o'er the main.
15Three days or more seaward he bore,
16Then, alas! the land-wind failed.
17Alas! the land-wind failed,
18And ice-cold grew the night;
19And nevermore, on sea or shore,
20Should Sir Humphrey see the light.
21He sat upon the deck,
22The Book was in his hand;
23"Do not fear! Heaven is as near,"
24He said, "by water as by land!"
25In the first watch of the night,
26Without a signal's sound,
27Out of the sea, mysteriously,
28The fleet of Death rose all around.
29The moon and the evening star
30Were hanging in the shrouds;
31Every mast, as it passed,
32Seemed to rake the passing clouds.
33They grappled with their prize,
34At midnight black and cold!
35As of a rock was the shock;
36Heavily the ground-swell rolled.
37Southward through day and dark,
38They drift in cold embrace,
39With mist and rain, o'er the open main;
40Yet there seems no change of place.
41Southward, forever southward,
42They drift through dark and day;
43And like a dream, in the Gulf-Stream
44Sinking, vanish all away.


13] Campobello: island off southwest New Brunswick. Back to Line
14] "When the wind abated and the vessels were near enough, the Admiral was seen constantly sitting in the stern, with a book in his hand. On the 9th of September he was seen for the last time, and was heard by the people of the Hindto say, `We are as near heaven by sea as by land.' In the following night, the lights of the ship suddenly disappeared. The people in the other vessel kept a good lookout for him during the remainder of the voyage. On the 22d of September they arrived, through much tempest and peril, at Falmouth. But nothing more was seen or heard of the Admiral.'-- Belknap's American Biography, I. 203." (The Editor, pp. 329-30.) Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
In The Seaside and the Fireside
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.