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Charles Harper Webb

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

With a Nantucket Shell


I SEND thee a shell from the ocean beach;
But listen thou well, for my shell hath speech.
Hold to thine ear,
And plain thou’lt hear
Tales of ships
That were lost in the rips,
Or that sunk on shoals
Where the bell-buoy tolls,
And ever and ever its iron tongue rolls
In a ceaseless lament for the poor lost souls.

And a song of the sea
Has my shell for thee;
The melody in it
Was hummed at Wauwinet,
And caught at Coatue
By the gull that flew
Outside to the ship with its perishing crew.
But the white wings wave
Where none may save,
And there ’s never a stone to mark a grave.

See, its sad heart bleeds
For the sailors’ needs;
But it bleeds again
For more mortal pain,
More sorrow and woe,
Than is theirs who go
With shuddering eyes and whitening lips
Down in the sea on their shattered ships.

Thou fearest the sea?
And a tyrant is he,—
A tyrant as cruel as tyrant may be;
But though winds fierce blow,
And the rocks lie low,
And the coast be lee,
This I say to thee:
Of Christian souls more have been wrecked on shore
Than ever were lost at sea!

Submitted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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