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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,
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,
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,
I sate on the deck alone;
A sound like a dying groan.
“ I started to my feet, and, lo !
The captain stood by me;
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 ;
And punishment begin.
“ And when they spoke of the murdered man,
And the El Dorado hoard,
And had fallen overboard.
“ But I, alone, and the murderer,
That dreadful thing did know,
A thousand fathom low,
“ And many days, and many more
Came on, and lagging sped ;
Were dark, like molten lead.
“ And not a breeze came, east or west,
And burning was the sky;
Of the air so hot and dry.
“ Oh me! there was a smell of death
Hung round us night and day;
Where the old man's body lay.
“ In his cabin, alone, the captain kept,
And he bolted fast the door ;
And wish'd that the calm was o'er.
“ The captain's son was on board with us,
A fair child, seven years old,
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;
Upon that charnel sea.
“ Yet I told him not wherefore he prayed,
Nor why the calm was sent ;
To a soul so innocent.
“ At length I saw a little cloud
Arise in that sky of flame;
And blackened as it came.
“ And we saw the sea beneath its track
Grow dark as the frowning sky;
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;
Their missioned work pursuing.
“ There was a yell in the gathering winds,
A groan in the heaving sea;
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,
Of their last agony.
“ There was a curse in the wind that blew,
A curse in the boiling wave;
From the old man's ocean grave.