BETA

The Veteran Tar.

A mariner, whom fate compell’d1
To make his home ashore,2
Lived in yon cottage on the mount,3
With ivy mantled o’er ;4
Because he could not breathe beyond5
The sound of ocean’s roar.6
He placed yon vane upon the roof7
To mark how stood the wind ;8
For breathless days and breezy days9
Brought back old times to mind,10
When rock’d amid the shrouds, or on11
The sunny deck reclined.12
And in his spot of garden ground13
All ocean plants were met14
Salt lavender, that lacks perfume,15
With scented mignonette ;16
And, blending with the roses’ bloom,17
Sea-thistles freak’d with jet.18
Models of cannon’d ships of war,19
Rige’d out in gallant style ;20
Pictures of Camperdown’s red fight,21
And Nelson at the Nile,22
Were round his cabin hung,—his hours,23
When lonely, to beguile.24
And there were charts and soundings, made25
By Anson, Cook, and Bligh ;26
Fractures of coral from the deep,27
And stormstones from the sky ;28
Shells from the shores of gay Brazil ;29
Stuff’d birds, and fishes dry.30
Old Simon had an orphan been,31
No relative had he ;32
Even from his childhood was he seen33
A haunter of the quay ;34
So, at the age of raw thirteen,35
He took him to the sea.36
Four years on board a merchantman37
He sail’d—a growing lad ;38
And all the isles of Western Ind,39
In endless summer clad,40
He knew, from pastoral St Lucie,41
To palmy Trinidad.42
But sterner life was in his thoughts,43
When, ’ mid the sea-fight’s jar,44
Stoop’d Victory from the batter’d shrouds,45
To crown the British tar ; —46
’Twas then he went—a volunteer—47
On board a ship of war.48
Through forty years of storm.and shine,49
He plough’d the changeful deep ;50
From where beneath the tropic line51
The winged fishes leap,52
To where frost rocks the Polar seas53
To everlasting sleep.54
I recollect the brave old man,—55
Methinks upon my view56
He comes again—his varnish’d hat,57
Striped shirt, and jacket blue ;58
His bronzed and weather-beaten cheek,59
Keen eye, and plaited queue.60
Yon turfen bench the veteran loved61
Beneath the threshold tree,62
For from that spot he could survey63
The broad expanse of sea,—64
That element, where he so long65
Had been a rover free !66
And lighted up his faded face,67
When, drifting in the gale,68
He with his telescope could catch,69
Far off, a coming sail :70
It was a music to his ear,71
To list the sea-mews’ wail !72
Oft would he tell how, under Smith,73
Upon the Egyptian strand,74
Eager to beat the boastful French,75
They join’d the men on land,76
And plied their deadly shots, intrench’d77
Behind their bags of sand ; —78
And when he told, how, through the Sound,79
With Nelson in his might,80
They pass’d the Cronberg batteries,81
To quell the Dane in fight,—82
His voice with vigour fill’d again !83
His veteran eye with light !84
But chiefly of hot Trafalgar85
The brave old man would speak ;86
And, when he shew’d his oaken stump,87
A glow suffused his cheek,88
While his eye fill’d—for, wound on wound89
Had left him worn and weak.90
Ten years, in vigorous old age,91
Within that cot he dwelt ;92
Tranquil as falls the snow on snow,93
Life’s lot to him was dealt ;94
But came infirmity at length,95
And slowly o’er him stealt.96
We miss’d him on our seaward walk :97
The children went no more98
To listen to his evening talk,99
Beside the cottage door ; —100
Grim palsy held him to the bed,101
Which health eschew’d before.102
’Twas harvest-time ; —day after day103
Beheld him weaker grow ;104
Day after day, his labouring pulse105
Became more faint and slow ;106
For, in the chambers of his heart,107
Life’s fire was burning low.108
Thus did he weaken and he wane,109
Till frail as frail could be ;110
But duly at the hour which brings111
Homeward the bird and bee,112
He made them prop him in his couch,113
To gaze upon the sea.114
And now he watch’d the moving boat,115
And now the moveless ships,116
And now the western hills remote,117
With gold upon their tips,118
As ray by ray the mighty sun119
Went down in calm eclipse.120
Welcome as homestead to the feet121
Of pilgrim, travel-tired,122
Death to old Simon’s dwelling came,123
A thing to be desired ;124
And, breathing peace to all around,125
The man of war expired.126