WOE to the weak when the sky is shrouded,
And the wind of the salt-way sobs as it dies!
Woe to the weak! for a great dejection
Droops their spirits and drowns their eyes.
Woe to the weak who tire of fetters,
Of grim life-fetters that gall and bind!
For the Sea tells stories of death made lovely,
And a siren sings in the nor'-east wind.
It wanders the coast like a tombless spectre,
And drips dank dew on the drooping leaf;
And the soul grows pensive with dim suggestions
Of grey old troubles and ancient grief.
'Tis grave and low, and with woeful plaining
Sighs death-notes under a sky of grey;
And who hath an ear may hear the voices
Of pale men dead on its streaked sea-way.
In fading twilights o'er sullen seascapes,
A lost, wan wind 'neath a dead grey sky,
It swoons to land like a weary swimmer,
Sobs and falters and turns to die.
Seeking a tomb in dark coast caverns
Where wet rust reddens the fretted stone,
The wandering sea-thing sinks to silence,
Sinks and dies with a last low moan . . .
A last low moan, and deadly stillness . . .
Then the sudden crash of a league-long sea,
And fresh from his den in the white ice region
The Wolf of the South is speeding free;
Cleaving the air with his chill grey shoulders,
Trampling the sea to foam beneath.
The Wolf of the South goes howling nor'ard,
A mastless hull in his long white teeth.
Black swans on high, a far faint phalanx,
Wing their way to a northern clime,
Sending feathers of sad sound downward,
Mournful notes of an evil time —
An evil time, for the black Night chases
And darkness swallows the trailing flock;
An evil season of wild white weather,
And foam and tumult on reef and rock;
Of yellow floods on the Northern rivers,
And fierce waves swaying from crest to trough,
Of creaking schooners wearing seaward,
And signals crying — Stand off! Stand off!
Of frothy flakes on the wild waste flying,
And anxious faces, and fateful news;
Of close-reefed topsails, and battened hatches,
And straining engines and racing screws;
Of pumice-stone and brown weeds riven,
Cast up and flung on the hissing sand;
Of squadroned waves and their mighty charging,
And the stern repulse of the frowning land;
Of whipped white faces faring stormward
With smothered words and wrecked replies,
Of trees blown down on the windy ridges,
And stormy shoutings, and tempest cries;
Of eyes that dance to the wild wind's music,
Of strange sweet thrills through the calm-sick form,
Of Storm throned king on the mad white ocean,
Of Storm the Monarch — all hail to Storm!