William Topaz McGonagall
Poem by William Topaz McGonagall
As the night was beginning to close in one rough September day
In the year of 1838, a steamer passed through the Fairway
Between the Farne Islands and the coast, on her passage northwards;
But the wind was against her, and the steamer laboured hard.
There she laboured in the heavy sea against both wind and tide,
Whilst a dense fog enveloped her on every side;
And the mighty billows made her timbers creak,
Until at last, unfortunately, she sprung a leak.
Then all hands rushed to the pumps, and wrought with might and main.
But the water, alas! alarmingly on them did gain;
And the thick sleet was driving across the raging sea,
While the wind it burst upon them in all its fury.
And the fearful gale and the murky aspect of the sky
Caused the passengers on board to Lament and sigh
As the sleet drove thick, furious, and fast,
And as the waves surged mountains high, they stood aghast.
And the screaming of the sea-birds foretold a gathering storm,
And the passengers, poor souls, looked pale and forlorn,
And on every countenance was depicted woe
As the "Forfarshire" steamer was pitched to and fro.
And the engine-fires with the water were washed out,
Then, as the tide set strongly in, it wheeled the vessel about
And the ill-fated vessel drifted helplessly along;
But the fog cleared up a little as the night wore on.
Then the terror-stricken crew saw the breakers ahead,
And all thought of being saved from them fled,
And the Farne lights were shining hazily through the gloom,
While in the fore-cabin a woman lay with two children in a swoon.
Before the morning broke, the "Forfarshire" struck upon a rock,
And was dashed to pieces by a tempestuous shock,
Which raised her for a moment, and dashed her down again,
Then the ill-starred vessel was swallowed up in the briny main
Before the vessel broke up, some nine or ten of the crew intent
To save their lives, or perish in the attempt,
Lowered one of the boats while exhausted and forlorn,
And, poor souls, were soon lost sight of in the storm.
Around the windlass on the forecastle some dozen poor wretches clung,
And with despair and grief their weakly hearts were rung
As the merciless sea broke o'er them every moment;
But God in His mercy to them Grace Darling sent.
By the first streak of dawn she early up had been,
And happened to look out upon the stormy scene,
And she descried the wreck through the morning gloom;
But she resolved to rescue them from such a perilous doom
Then she cried, Oh! father dear, come here and see the wreck,
See, here take the telescope, and you can inspect;
Oh! father, try and save them, and heaven will you bless;
But, my darling, no help can reach them in such a storm as this.
Oh! my kind father, you will surely try and save
These poor souls from a cold and watery grave;
Oh! I cannot sit to see them perish before mine eyes,
And, for the love of heaven, do not my pleading despise!
Then old Darling yielded, and launched the little boat,
And high on the big waves the boat did float;
Then Grace and her father took each an oar in hand,
And to see Grace Darling rowing the picture was grand.
And as the little boat to the sufferers drew near,
Poor souls, they tried to raise a cheer;
But as they gazed upon the heroic Grace,
The big tears trickled down each sufferer's face.
And nine persons were rescued almost dead with the cold
By modest and lovely Grace Darling, that heroine bold;
The survivors were taken to the light-house, and remained there two days,
And every one of them was loud in Grace Darling's praise.
Grace Darling was a comely lass, with long, fair floating hair,
With soft blue eyes, and shy, and modest rare;
And her countenance was full of sense and genuine kindliness,
With a noble heart, and ready to help suffering creatures in distress.
But, alas! three years after her famous exploit,
Which, to the end of time, will never be forgot,
Consumption, that fell destroyer, carried her away
To heaven, I hope, to be an angel for ever and aye.
Before she died, scores of suitors in marriage sought her hand;
But no, she'd rather live in Longstone light-house on Farne island,
And there she lived and died with her father and mother,
And for her equal in true heroism we cannot find another.
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