A Ballad Of Smuggling Days


'THE night is dark as pitch, Harry,
But there's not a drop of rain,
And when the tide has risen
They'll all be there again;

'By yonder little eastward bay,
With the crags on either hand,
A lonely place,--'tis there, I think,
They'll run the boats to land.

'Ten of the worst and wildest lads
Are coming across the sea,
And the largest boat of the two, Harry,
Will be laden heavily.'

They walk'd along the shore three miles,
The strong and fearless men,
As many as they could muster,--
But the force was smaller then,--

Till all within the shadow stood,
Speaking never a word;
Then over the sea the first boat
Came flying like a bird.


Bright on the morrow rose the sun
And glitter'd on the sea,
The rippled foam of the ebbing tide
Was as white as it could be;
The long brown fields of trackless sand
Betray'd no mystery.

'Let us go to the bay, Harry;
'Twere well to find some token
Of who the smugglers were; 'tis strange
That not a word was spoken,
Nor, save by oaths and dying groans,
That awful silence broken.'

Out to the bay went both the men,
And, onward as they pass,
The fishing-boats were doubled in
A sea as smooth as glass:
Until one stoop'd, and said, 'My God!
Here's blood upon the grass.'

'Here, Harry! no, it cannot be,
We came not near this wood.'
Yet both the men paus'd silently,
And trembled as they stood,
For the round red drops were plain to see,
And nothing looks like blood.

Over the little violet-leaves
They track'd the life-stains on,
Over the jagg'd grey shadows
Of the lichen-crusted stone,
And midst the shining silver dew,
That ghastly crimson shone.

Beside the brook, by swaying reeds,
Under the shudd'ring trees,
And where the trailing ivy-sprays
Were singing to the breeze,
Sprinkled about the glorious grass
And white anemones

They track'd it on; at last, a roof
Of sunlit leaves beneath,
Its white face nestled in the grass,
Lay the cold Thing of death;
The small birds sang in vain to it
With meek persuasive breath;

And all around, the lovely wood
Was pouring forth a hymn
At morning dawn: to his dead ear
All but God's trump were dim,
The anthem and the loveliness
Are nothing now to him.

Quiet he lay, and Harry bent
And touch'd the curling hair,

Which lay in tangles, and rais'd up
The face into the air,
And a sudden sob broke fearfully,
Of the strong man's great despair.

'Thou! sadly lost, and now found thus,
Thou darling of my mother!
Whose name has been a banish'd word,
Still dearer than all other.'
Great God! how long must blood cry out?
The smuggler was his brother.
Monday, October 11, 2010

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