The Song of the Wreck

Original Text: 
The Poems and Verses of Charles Dickens, ed. F. G. Kitton (London: Chapman and Hall, 1903): 119-21. Ver 8.90.148 Cambridge University Library
2     A ship drove on the land,
3A hundred human creatures saved
4     Kneel'd down upon the sand.
5Three-score were drown'd, three-score were thrown
6     Upon the black rocks wild,
7And thus among them, left alone,
8     They found one helpless child.
9A seaman rough, to shipwreck bred,
10     Stood out from all the rest,
11And gently laid the lonely head
12     Upon his honest breast.
13And travelling o'er the desert wide
14     It was a solemn joy,
15To see them, ever side by side,
16     The sailor and the boy.
17In famine, sickness, hunger, thirst,
18     The two were still but one,
19Until the strong man droop'd the first
20     And felt his labours done.
21Then to a trusty friend he spake,
22     "Across the desert wide,
23O take this poor boy for my sake!"
24     And kiss'd the child and died.
25Toiling along in weary plight
26     Through heavy jungle, mire,
27These two came later every night
28     To warm them at the fire.
29Until the captain said one day,
30     "O seaman good and kind,
31To save thyself now come away,
32     And leave the boy behind!"
33The child was slumbering near the blaze:
34     "O captain, let him rest
35Until it sinks, when God's own ways
36     Shall teach us what is best!"
37They watch'd the whiten'd ashy heap,
38     They touch'd the child in vain;
39They did not leave him there asleep,
40     He never woke again.


1] Dickens wrote this poem for Wilkie Collins' play, The Lighthouse, composed for Dickens' own place, Tavistock House, and first performed there June 19, 1855. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: