Minot's Ledge Lighthouse Poem

Like spectral hounds across the sky
   The white clouds scud before the storm,
And naked in the howling night
   The red-eyed light-house lifts its form.
The waves with slippery fingers clutch
   The massive tower, and climb and fall,
And, muttering, growl with baffled rage
   Their curses on the sturdy wall.

Up in the lonely tower he sits,
   The keeper of the crimson light-
Silent and awe-struck does he hear
   The imprecations of the night.
The white spray beats against the panes
   Like some wet ghost that down the air
Is hunted by a troop of fiends,
   And seeks a shelter any where.

He prays aloud - the lonely man-
   For every soul that night at sea,
But more than all for that brave boy
   Who used to gayly climb his knee.
Young Charley, with the chestnut hair
   And hazel eyes and laughing lip,
“May Heaven look down,” the old man cries,
   “Upon my son, and on his ship!”

While thus with pious heart he prays
   Far in the distance sounds a boom-
He pauses, and again there rings
   That sullen thunder through the room.
A ship upon the shoal to-night!
   She can not hold for one half hour-
But clear the ropes and grappling-hooks,
   And trust in the Almighty power!

On the drenched gallery he stands,
   Striving to pierce the solid night,
Across the sea the red eye throws
   A steady crimson wake of light,
And where it falls upon the waves
   He sees a human head float by,
With long, drenched curls of chestnut hair,
   And wild but fearless hazel eye.

Out with the hooks! One mighty fling!
   Adown the wind the long rope curls.
Oh! will it catch? Ah! dread suspense
   While the wild ocean wilder whirls.
A steady pull. - It tautens now!
   Oh, his old heart will burst with joy
As on the slippery rocks he pulls
   The breathing body of his boy.

Still sweep the spectres through the sky,
   Still scud the clouds before the storm,
Still naked in the howling night
   The red-eyed light-house lifts its form.
Without, the world is wild with rage,
   Unkenneled demons are abroad,
But with the father and the son
   Within, there is the peace of God.
Fitz James O'Brien.
Minot's Ledge Light
Minot's Ledge Light


Fitz James O’Brien's poem was first published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, April 1861 (Volume 22, Issue 131).

His poem is reprinted above with the 1861 spelling.  O’Brien, an American Fantasist, was a prolific literary writer of prose and poems and is renown as America’s best writer of short fiction (light fantasies and dream stories).

Web page format and content, excluding the poem,
Copyright 2001 to 2010 by Debbie Dolphin.

Document Updated: Thu 26 Aug 2010, 08:44:00pm EDT (GMT-4)