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There was an old and quiet man,

And by the fire sate he ; “ And now," he said, “ to you I'll tell A dismal thing, which once befel

In a ship upon the sea,

• 'Tis five-and-fifty years gone by,

Since, from the river Plate,
A young man, in a home-bound ship,

I sailed as second mate.

“ She was a trim, stout-timbered ship,

And built for stormy seas, A lovely thing on the wave was she, With her canvass set so gallantly Before a steady breeze.

“ For forty days, like a winged thing,

She went before the gale,
Nor all that time we slackened speed,

Turn'd helm, or alter'd sail.

“ She was a laden argosy

Of wealth from the Spanish main, And the treasure hoards of a Portuguese

Returning home again.

“ An old and silent man was he,

And his face was yellow and lean; In the golden lands of Mexico

A miner he had been.

“ His body was wasted, bent, and bowed

And amid his gold he lay; Amid iron chests that were bound with brass

And he watched them night and day.

“ No word he spoke to any on board,

And his step was heavy and slow; And all men deemed that an evil life

He had led in Mexico.

“ But list ye me on the lone high seas,

As the ship went smoothly on,
It chanced, in the silent, second watch,

I sate on the deck alone;
And I heard, from among those iron chests,

A sound like a dying groan.

“ I started to my feet, and, lo !

The captain stood by me;
And he bore a body in his arms,

And dropped it in the sea.

I heard it drop into the sea,

With a heavy, splashing sound, And I saw the captain's bloody hands

As he quickly turned him round; And he drew in his breath when me he saw Like one convulsed, whom the withering awe

Of a spectre doth astound.

“ But I saw his white and palsied lips,

And the stare of his ghastly eye, When he turned in hurried haste away,–

Yet he had no power to fly; He was chained to the deck with his heavy guilt,

And the blood that was not dry.

:. 'Twas a cursed thing,' said I, • to kill

That old man in his sleep! And the plagues of the storm will come from him,

Ten thousand fathoms deep!

" • And the plagues of the storm will follow us,

For Heaven his groans hath heard !' Still the captain's eye was fixed on me,

But he answer'd never a word.

“ And he slowly lifted his bloody hand,

His aching eyes to shade ; But the blood that was wet did freeze his soul,

And he shrinked like one afraid.

And even then—that very hour

The wind dropped, and a spell Was on the ship was on the sea ; And we lay for weeks, how wearily,

Where the old man's body fell.

I told no one within the ship

That horrid deed of sin ;
For I saw the hand of God at work,

And punishment begin.

And when they spoke of the murdered man,

And the El Dorado hoard,
They all surmised he had walked in dreams,

And had fallen overboard.

“ But I, alone, and the murderer,

That dreadful thing did know,
How he lay in his sin—a murdered man,

A thousand fathom low,

“ And many days, and many more

Came on, and lagging sped ;
And the heavy waves of that sleeping sea

Were dark, like molten lead.

“ And not a breeze came, east or west,

And burning was the sky;
And stifling was each breath we drew

Of the air so hot and dry.

“ Oh me! there was a smell of death

Hung round us night and day;
And I dared not look in the sea below

Where the old man's body lay.

“ In his cabin, alone, the captain kept,

And he bolted fast the door ;
And up and down the sailors walked,

And wish'd that the calm was o'er.

“ The captain's son was on board with us,

A fair child, seven years old,
With a merry look, that all men loved,

And a spirit kind and bold.

“ I loved the child,—and I took his hand,

And made him kneel, and pray That the crime, for which the calm was sent,

Might be purged clean away.

“ For I thought that God would hear his prayer,

And set the vessel free;
For a dreadful thing it was to lie

Upon that charnel sea.

“ Yet I told him not wherefore he prayed,

Nor why the calm was sent ;
I would not give that knowledge dark

To a soul so innocent.

“ At length I saw a little cloud

Arise in that sky of flame;
A little cloud,—but it grew, and grew,

And blackened as it came.

And we saw the sea beneath its track

Grow dark as the frowning sky;
And water-spouts, with a rushing sound,

Like giants, passed us by.

“ And all around, 'twixt sky and sea,

A hollow wind did blow; And the waves were heaved from the ocean depths,

And the ship rocked to and fro.

“ I knew it was that fierce death calm

Its horrid hold undoing;
And I saw the plagues of wind and storm

Their missioned work pursuing.

“ There was a yell in the gathering winds,

A groan in the heaving sea;
And the captain rushed from the hold below,

But he durst not look on me.

“ He seized each rope with a madman's haste,

And he set the helm to go; And every sail he crowded on

As the furious winds did blow.

“ And away they went, like autumn leaves

Before the tempest's rout; And the naked masts with a crash came down,

And the wild ship tossed about.

The men to spars and splintered boards

Clung, till their strength was gone; And I saw them from their feeble hold

Washed over, one by one.

“ And 'mid the creaking timber's din,

And the roaring of the sea,
I heard the dismal, drowning cries,

Of their last agony.

“ There was a curse in the wind that blew,

A curse in the boiling wave;
And the captain knew that vengeance came

From the old man's ocean grave.

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