The Stowaway


I crossed the gangway in the winter's raining,
Late in the night, when it was dreary dark;
The only sounds the rain's hiss, and the complaining
Of mooring hawsers holding that lean barque.

She sailed before the dawn, the evening found me
A sea-sick nipper hidden in spare sails.
I feared they'd drag me out and maybe drown me, –
The barque was trembling, dipping both her rails.

Soon I crept forth. Her long, lee rail was sweeping.
A homing ship drove by with hurrying feet,
A school of porpoises all 'round her leaping,
While stars dipped low, her dizzied spars to greet.

"Three cheers!" they cried, and I could hear their voices,
And the sharp beating of her clanged iron bells;
Her music faded, merged in the sea noises,
And she was gone, loud cheering down the swells.

And in me then a something seemed to waken,
And I was 'mazed. It was as though the sea,
Or the big topsails by the night-wind shaken,
Had cast a sort of magic over me.

The mast-heads reeled. In the bright north the Dipper
Hung dazzling diamonds 'round her sails, ghost white.
The seas were dim, and the deep-breathing clipper
Quivered her feet, and shook with sheer delight.

It's long ago, my first night on the sea,
And I've grown old, and sailing days are sped.
And I am waiting, waiting patiently,
Till other topsails gleam above my head.

There'll be a wharf, I know, where I am going,
There'll be a gangway for the likes o' me;
There'll be some lofty packet seaward going, –
They'll be fine ships on that eternal sea!
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