Jeanne Robert Foster

(1879 - 1970 / Johnsburg, New York)

The William P. Frye


I saw her first abreast the Boston Light
At anchor; she had just come in, turned head,
And sent her hawsers creaking, clattering down.
I was so near to where the hawse-pipes fed
The cable out from her careening bow,
I moved upon the swell, shut steam and lay
Hove to in my old launch to look at her.
She'd come in light, a-skimming up the Bay
Like a white ghost with topsails bellying full;
And all her noble lines from bow to stern
Made music in the wind; it seemed she rode
The morning air like those thin clouds that turn
Into tall ships when sunrise lifts the clouds
From calm sea-courses.

There in smoke-smudged coats,
Lay funnelled liners, dirty fishing-craft,
Blunt cargo-luggers, tugs, and ferry-boats.
Oh, it was good in that black-scuttled lot
To see the Frye come lording on her way
Like some old queen that we had half forgot
Come to her own. A little up the Bay
The Fort lay green, for it was springtime then;
The wind was fresh, rich with the spicy bloom
Of the New England coast that tardily
Escapes, late April, from an icy tomb.
The State-house glittered on old Beacon Hill,
Gold in the sun. . . . 'Twas all so fair awhile;
But she was fairest - this great square-rigged ship
That had blown in from some far happy isle
On from the shores of the Hesperides.

They caught her in a South Atlantic road
Becalmed, and found her hold brimmed up with wheat;
'Wheat's contraband,' they said, and blew her hull
To pieces,murdered one of our staunch fleet,
Fast dwindling, of the big old sailing ships
That carry trade for us on the high sea
And warped out of each horbor in the States.
It wasn't law, so it seems strange to me -
A big mistake. Her keel's struck bottom now
And her four masts sunk fathoms, fathoms deep
To Davy Jones. The dank seaweed will root
On her oozed decks, and the cross-surges sweep
Through the set sails; but never, never more
Her crew will stand away to brace and trim,
Nor sea-blown petrels meet her thrashing up
To windward on the Gulf-Stream's stormy rim;
Never again she'll head a no'theast gale
Or like a spirit loom up, sliding dumb,
And ride in safe beyond the Boston Light,
To make the harbor glad because she's home.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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