James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

The Old Retired Sea Captain Poem by James Whitcomb Riley


The old sea captain has sailed the seas
So long, that the waves at mirth,
Or the waves gone wild, and the crests of these,
Were as near playmates from birth:
He has loved both the storm and the calm, because
They seemed as his brothers twain,--
The flapping sail was his soul's applause,
And his rapture, the roaring main.

But now--like a battered hulk seems he,
Cast high on a foreign strand,
Though he feels 'in port,' as it need must be,
And the stay of a daughter's hand--
Yet ever the round of the listless hours,--
His pipe, in the languid air--
The grass, the trees, and the garden flowers,
And the strange earth everywhere!

And so betimes he is restless here
In this little inland town,
With never a wing in the atmosphere
But the wind-mill's, up and down;
His daughter's home in this peaceful vale,
And his grandchild 'twixt his knees--
But never the hail of a passing sail,
Nor the surge of the angry seas!

He quits his pipe, and he snaps its neck--
Would speak, though he coughs instead,
Then paces the porch like a quarter-deck
With a reeling mast o'erhead!
Ho! the old sea captain's cheeks glow warm,
And his eyes gleam grim and weird,
As he mutters about, like a thunder-storm,
In the cloud of his beetling beard.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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