A True Story

The merry boats of Brixham
Go out to search the seas;
A stanch and sturdy fleet are they,
Who love a swinging breeze;
And before the woods of Devon,
And the silver cliffs of Wales,
You may see, when summer evenings fall,
The light upon their sails.
But when the year grows darker,
And gray winds hunt the foam,
They go back to Little Brixham,
And ply their toil at home.
And thus it chanced one winter's night,
When a storm began to roar,
That all the men were out at sea,
And all the wives on shore.
Then as the wind grew fiercer,
The women's cheeks grew white,—
It was fiercer in the twilight,
And fiercest in the night.
The strong clouds set themselves like ice,
Without a star to melt;
The blackness of the darkness
Was darkness to be felt.
The old men they were anxious,
They dreaded what they knew;
What do you think the women did?
Love taught them what to do!
Out spake a wife, "We've beds at home,
We'll burn them for a light,—
Give us the men and the bare ground,
We want no more to-night."
They took the grandame's blanket,
Who shivered and bade them go;
They took the baby's pillow,
Who could not say them no;
And they heaped a great fire on the pier,
And knew not all the while
If they were heaping a bonfire,
Or only a funeral pile.
And fed with precious food, the flame
Shone bravely on the black,
Till a cry rang through the people,
"A boat is coming back!"
Staggering dimly through the fog
Come shapes of fear and doubt,
But when the first prow strikes the pier,
Cannot you hear them shout?
Then all along the breath of flame,
Dark figures shrieked and ran,
With "Child, here comes your father!"
Or, "Wife, is this your man?"
And faint feet touch the welcome shore,
And wait a little while;
And kisses drop from frozen lips,
Too tired to speak or smile.
So, one by one, they struggled in
All that the sea would spare;
We will not reckon through our tears
The names that were not there;
But some went home without a bed,
When all the tale was told,
Who were too cold with sorrow
To know the night was cold.
And this is what the men must do
Who work in wind and foam;
And this is what the women bear
Who watch for them at home.
So when you see a Brixham boat
Go out to face the gales,
Think of the love that travels
Like light upon her sails.