Edwin Arlington Robinson

(22 December 1869 – 6 April 1935 / Maine / United States)

Ballad Of A Ship - Poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Down by the flash of the restless water
The dim White Ship like a white bird lay;
Laughing at life and the world they sought her,
And out she swung to the silvering bay.
Then off they flew on their roystering way,
And the keen moon fired the light foam flying
Up from the flood where the faint stars play,
And the bones of the brave in the wave are lying.

'T was a king's fair son with a king's fair daughter,
And full three hundred beside, they say, --
Revelling on for the lone, cold slaughter
So soon to seize them and hide them for aye;
But they danced and they drank and their souls grew gay,
Nor ever they knew of a ghoul's eye spying
Their splendor a flickering phantom to stray
Where the bones of the brave in the wave are lying.

Through the mist of a drunken dream they brought her
(This wild white bird) for the sea-fiend's prey:
The pitiless reef in his hard clutch caught her,
And hurled her down where the dead men stay.
A torturing silence of wan dismay --
Shrieks and curses of mad souls dying --
Then down they sank to slumber and sway
Where the bones of the brave in the wave are lying.


Prince, do you sleep to the sound alway
Of the mournful surge and the sea-birds' crying? --
Or does love still shudder and steel still slay,
Where the bones of the brave in the wave are lying?

Comments about Ballad Of A Ship by Edwin Arlington Robinson

  • (2/8/2018 1:12:00 AM)

    This is a lovely and intelligent poem about the White Ship disaster, revealing the revelry that was going on aboard the fleet ship, the Titanic of the 1100’s, crammed with young ambitious men who sailed with King Henry’s son and heir, who died trying to rescue Matilda, his half sister. The tragedy brought on the Anarchy of the next thirty or so years. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: daughter, sea, son, silence, moon, water, sleep, dream, ballad, light, world, dance, star

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

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