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Great God! whose hand hath launched
Our boat upon life's sea,
That our frail barks may be,
R. M. CHARLTON.
THE great eye of day was wide open, and a joyful light filled air, heaven, and ocean. The marbled clouds lay motionless far and wide over the deep, blue sky, and all memory of storm and hurricane had vanished from the magnificence of that immense calm. There was but a gentle fluctuation on the bosom of the deep, and the sea-birds floated steadily there, or dipped their wings for a moment in the wreathed foam, and again wheeled sportively away into the sunshine. One ship, only one single ship, was within the encircling horizon, and she had lain there as if at anchor since the morning light; for, although all her sails were set, scarcely a wandering breeze touched her canvas, and her flags hung dead on staff and at peak, or lifted themselves uncertainly up at intervals, and then sunk again into motionless repose. The crew paced not her deck, for they knew that no breeze would come till after meridian, and it was the Sabbath day.
A small congregation were singing praises to God in that chapel, which rested almost as quietly on the sea, as the house of worship in which they had been used to pray then rested, far off on a foundation of rock, in a green valley of their forsaken Scotland. They were emigrants, without hope of seeing again the mists of their native mountains. But as they heard the voice of their psalm, each singer half forgot that it blended with the sound of the sea, and almost believed himself sitting, in the kirk of his own beloved parish. But hundreds of billowy leagues intervened between them and the little tinkling bell that was now tolling their happier friends to the quiet house of God
And now an old, gray-headed man rose to pray, and held up his withered hand in fervent supplication for all around, whom, in good truth, he called his children; for three generations were with the patriarch in that tabernacle. There, in one group were husbands and wives standing together, in awe of Him who held the deep in the hollow of his hand; there, youths and maidens, linked together by the feeling of the same destiny, some of them, perhaps, hoping, when they reached the shore, to lay their heads on one pillow; there, children, hand in hand, happy in the wonders of the ocean; and there, mere infants smiling on the sunny deck, and unconscious of the meaning of hymn or prayer.
A low, confined, growling noise was heard struggling beneath the deck, and a sailor, called with a loud voice, "Fire! fire! the ship's on fire!" Holy words died on the prayer's tongue! the congregation fell asunder; and pale faces, wild eyes, groans, shrieks, and outcries rent the silence of the lonesome sea. No one for awhile knew the other, as all were hurried as in a whirlwind up and down the ship. A dismal heat, all unlike the warmth of that beautiful sun, came stiflingly on every breath. Mothers, who in their first terror had shuddered but for themselves, now clasped their infants to their breasts, and lifted up their eyes to heaven.
Bold, brave men grew white as ashes, and hands, strengthened by toil and storm, trembled like the aspen-leaf. "Gone! gone! we are all gone!" was now the cry; yet no one knew whence that cry came; and men glared reproachfully on each other's countenances, and strove to keep down the audible beating of their own hearts. The desperate love of life drove them instinctively to their stations, and the water was poured, as by the strength of giants, down among the smoldering flames. But the devouring element roared up into the air; and deck, masts, sails, and shrouds, were one crackling and hissing sheet of fire.
"Let down the boat!" was now the yell of hoarse voices; and in an instant she was filled with life. Then, there was frantic leaping into the sea; and all who were fast drowning moved convulsively towards that little ark. Some sunk down at once into oblivion; some grasped at nothing with their disappearing hands; some seized in vain unquenched pieces of the
fiery wreck; some would fain have saved a friend almost in the last agonies; and some, strong in a savage despair, tore from them the clinched fingers that would have dragged them down, and forgot in fear both love and pity.
Enveloped in flames and smoke, yet insensible as a corpse to the burning, a frantic mother flung down her baby among the crew; and, as it fell among the upward oars unharmed, she shrieked out a prayer of thanksgiving: "Go, husband, go; for I am content to die. Oh! live! live! my husband! for our darling Willy's sake." But, in the prime of life, and with his manly bosom full of health and hope, the husband looked but for a moment, till he saw his child was safe; and then, taking his young wife in his arms, sat down beneath the burning fragments of the sail, with the rest that were resigned, never more to rise up till the sound of the last trumpet, when the faithful and afflicted shall be raised to breathe for ever the pure air of Heaven.
THE DEAD OF THE WRECK.
[The Steamer Atlantic was wrecked, in a storm, on Long Island Sound, in Nov., 1846. As soon as the boat struck, its bell commenced tolling, probably from the action of the wind upon it, and continued to toll slowly and mournfully, as long as any portion of the wreck was to be seen.]
TOLL, toll, toll,
Thou Bell by billows swung,
And night and day thy warning words
Wrecked on yon rocky shore,
She rides the surge no more!
Toll for the master bold,
The high-souled and the brave,
Toll for the hardy crew,
Sons of the storm and blast, Who long the tyrant Ocean dared But it vanquished them at last!
Toll for the man of God,
Whose hallowed voice of prayer,
Toll for the lover, lost
To the summoned bridal train! Bright glows a picture on his breast, Beneath the unfathomed main; One from her casement gazeth
Long o'er the misty sea; He cometh not, pale maiden, His heart is cold to thee!
Toll for the absent sire,
Who to his home drew near,
Toll for the loved and fair,
The whelmed beneath the tide, The broken harps around whose strings The dull sea-monsters glide! Mother and nursling sweet,
Reft from the household throng, There's bitter weeping in the nest Where breathed their soul of song.
Toll for the hearts that bleed