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The Flying Dutchman

LONG time ago, from Amsterdam a vessel sailed away,—
As fair a ship as ever flung aside the laughing spray.
Upon the shore were tearful eyes, and scarfs were in the air,
As to her, o'er the Zuyder Zee, went fond adieu and prayer;
And brave hearts, yearning shoreward from the outwardgoing ship,
Felt lingering kisses clinging still to tear-wet cheek and lip.
She steered for some far eastern clime, and, as she skimmed the seas,
Each taper mast was bending like a rod before the breeze.

Her captain was a stalwart man,—an iron heart had he,—
From childhood's days he sailed upon the rolling Zuyder Zee:
He nothing feared upon the earth, and scarcely heaven feared,
He would have dared and done whatever mortal man had dared!
He looked aloft, where high in air the pennant cut the blue,
And every rope and spar and sail was firm and strong and true.
He turned him from the swelling sail to gaze upon the shore,—
Ah! little thought the skipper then 'twould meet his eye no more:
He dreamt not that an awful doom was hanging o'er his ship,
That Vanderdecken's name would yet make pale the speaker's lip.
The vessel bounded on her way, and spire and dome went down,—
Ere darkness fell, beneath the wave had sunk the distant town.
No more, no .more, ye hapless crew, shall Holland meet your eye.
In lingering hope and keen suspense, maid, wife, and child shall die!

Away, away the vessel speeds, till sea and sky alone
Are round her, as her course she steers across the torrid zone.
Away, until the North Star fades, the Southern Cross is high,
And myriad gems of brightest beam are sparkling In the sky.
The tropic winds are left behind; she nears the Cape of Storms,
Where awful Tempest ever sits enthroned in wild alarms;
Where Ocean in his anger shakes aloft his foamy crest,
Disdainful of the weakly toys that ride upon his breast.

Pierce swell the winds and waters round the Dutchman's gallant ship,
But, to their rage, defiance rings from Vanderdecken's lip:
Impotent they to make him swerve, their might he dares despise,
As straight he holds his onward course, and wind and wave defies.
For days and nights he struggles in the weird, unearthly fight.
His brow is bent, his eye is fierce, but looks of deep affright
Amongst the mariners go round, as hopelessly they steer:
They do not dare to murmur, but they whisper what they fear.
Their black-browed captain awes them: 'neath his darkened eye they quail,
And in a grim and sullen mood their bitter fate bewail.
As some fierce rider ruthless spurs a timid, wavering horse,
He drives his shapely vessel, and they watch the reckless course,
Till once again their skipper's laugh is flung upon the blast:
The placid ocean smiles beyond, the dreaded Cape is passed!

Away across the Indian main the vessel northward glides;
A thousand murmuring ripples break along her graceful sides:
The perfumed breezes fill her sails,—her destined port she nears,—
The captain's brow has lost its frown, the mariners their fears.
'Land ho!' at length the welcome sound the watchful sailor sings,
And soon within an Indian bay the ship at anchor swings.
Not idle then the busy crew: ere long the spacious hold
Is emptied of its western freight, and stored with silk and gold.

Again the ponderous anchor's weighed; the shore is left behind,
The snowy sails are bosomed out before the favoring wind.
Across the warm blue Indian sea the vessel southward flies,
And once again the North Star fades and Austral beacons rise.
For home she steers I she seems to know and answer to the word,
And swifter skims the burnished deep, like some fair oceanbird.
'For home! for home!' the merry crew with gladsome voices cry,
And dark-browed Vanderdecken has a mild light in his eye.

But once again the Cape draws near, and furious billows rise;
And still the daring Dutchman's laugh the hurricane defies.
But wildly shrieked the tempest ere the scornful sound had died,
A warning to the daring man to curb his impious pride.
A crested mountain struck the ship, and like a frighted bird
She trembled 'neath the awful shock. Then Vanderdecken heard
A pleading voice.-within the gale,—his better angel spoke,
But fled before his scowling look, as mast-high mountains broke
Around the trembling vessel, till the crew with terror paled;
But Vanderdecken never flinched, nor 'neath the thunders quailed.
With folded arms and stern-pressed lips, dark anger in his eye,
He answered back the threatening frown that lowered o'er the sky.
With fierce defiance in his heart, and scornful look of flame,
He spoke, and thus with impious voice blasphem
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:04 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic heptameter
Characters 4,542
Words 804
Stanzas 7
Stanza Lengths 8, 14, 8, 14, 8, 8, 14

John Boyle O'Reilly

John Boyle O'Reilly was an Irish-born poet, journalist and fiction writer. more…

All John Boyle O'Reilly poems | John Boyle O'Reilly Books

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