Forging of the Anchor by Samuel Ferguson

 

This fine poem is full of points for brilliant declamation; at times there should be a flow of rapid narration, rising frequently into shouts of exultation:


COME, see the good ship's anchor forged—'tis at a white heat now:

The bellows ceased, the flames decreased—though on the forge's brow

The little flames still fitfully play through the sable mound,

And fitfully you still may see the grim smiths ranking round;

All clad in leathern panoply, their broad hands only bare—

Some rest upon their sledges here, some work the windlass there.

The windlass strains the tackle chains, the black mound heaves below,

And red and deep a hundred veins burst out at every throe!

It rises, roars, rends all outright—O, Vulcan, what a glow:

'Tis blinding white, 'tis blasting bright—the high sun shines not so!

The high sun sees not, on the earth, such fiery fearful show;

The roof-ribs swart, the candent hearth, the ruddy lurid row

Of smiths that stand, an ardent band, like men before the foe

As, quivering through his fleece of flame, the sailing-monster slow

Sinks on the anvil—all about the faces fiery grow.

"Hurrah!" they shout, "leap out—leap out;" bang, bang the sledges go;

Hurrah! the jetted lightnings are hissing high and low—

A hailing fount of fire is struck at every quashing blow;

The leathern mail rebounds the hail, the rattling cinders strow

The ground around: at every bound the sweltering fountains flow

And thick and loud the swinking crowd at every stroke pant "Ho!"

Leap out, leap out, my masters; leap out and lay on load!

Let's forge a goodly anchor—a bower thick and broad;

For a heart of oak is hanging on every blow, I bode,

And I see the good ship riding, all in a perilous road—

The low reef roaring on her lee—the roll of ocean poured

From stem to stern, sea after sea; the mainmast by the board;

The bulwarks down, the rudder gone, the boats stove at the chains!

But courage still, brave mariners—the bower yet remains!

And not an inch to flinch he deigns, save when ye pitch sky-high;

Then moves his head, as though he said, "Fear nothing—here am I."

Swing in your strokes in order, let foot and hand keep time;

Your blows make sweeter music far than any steeple's chime.

But while you sling your sledges, sing—and let the burden be,

"The anchor is the anvil king, and royal craftsmen we:"

Strike in, strike in—the sparks begin to dull their rustling red;

Our hammers ring with sharper din, our work will soon be sped.

Our anchor must soon change his bed of fiery rich array,

For a hammock at the roaring bows, or an oozy couch of clay;

 

Our anchor must soon change the lay of merry craftsmen here,

For the "Yeo-heave-o'!" and the "Heave-away!" and the sighing seaman's cheer;

When, weighing slow, at eve they go—far, far from love and home;

And sobbing sweethearts, in a row, wail o'er the ocean foam.

In livid and obdurate gloom he darkens down at last;

A shapely one he is, and strong, as e'er from cast was cast.

O, trusted and trustworthy guard, if thou hadst life like me,

What pleasures would thy toils reward beneath the deep green sea!

O, broad-armed diver of the deep, whose sports can equal thine?

The good ship weighs a thousand tons, that tugs thy cable line;

And, night by night, 'tis thy delight, thy glory day by day,

Through sable sea and breaker white, the giant game to play.

O, lodger in the sea-king's halls, couldst thou but understand

Whose be the white bones by thy side, once leagued in patriot band!

O, couldst thou know what heroes glide with larger steps round thee,

Thine iron sides would swell with pride; thou'dst leap within the sea!

Give honor to their memories who left the pleasant strand,

To shed their blood so freely for love of father-land—

Who left their chance of quiet age and grassy church-yard grave

So freely, for a restless bed amid the tossing wave—

O, though our anchor may not be all I have fondly sung,

Honor him for their memory, whose bones he goes among!