Celia Thaxter

(29 June 1835 – 25 August 1894 / Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

The Shag


"What is that great bird, sister, tell me,
Perched high on the top of the crag?"
"'T is the cormorant, dear little brother;
The fishermen call it the shag."

"But what does it there, sister, tell me,
Sitting lonely against the black sky?"
"It has settled to rest, little brother;
It hears the wild gale wailing high."

"But I am afraid of it, sister,
For over the sea and the land
It gazes, so black and so silent!"
"Little brother, hold fast to my hand."

"Oh, what was that, sister? The thunder?
Did the shag bring the storm and the cloud,
The wind and the rain and the lightning?"
"Little brother, the thunder roars loud.

"Run fast, for the rain sweeps the ocean;
Look! over the light-house it streams;
And the lightning leaps red, and above us
The gulls fill the air with their screams."

O'er the beach, o'er the rocks, running swiftly,
The little white cottage they gain;
And safely they watch from the window
The dance and the rush of the rain.

But the shag kept his place on the headland,
And when the brief storm had gone by,
He shook his loose plumes, and they saw him
Rise splendid and strong in the sky.

Clinging fast to the gown of his sister,
The little boy laughed as he flew;
"He is gone with the wind and the lightning!
And -- I am not frightened, -- are you?"

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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