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Ashlar Home > Poems > Rob Morris > The Grand Hailing Sign

The Grand Hailing Sign

By Rob Morris

Shipwrecked, nigh drowned, alone upon the sands,
Chilled with the flood and with the frosty air
Hungry and wounded, lo, a Mason stands,
And looks despairingly on nature there.

Her coldest frown the face of nature wears
She offers to the shipwrecked but a grave!
No fruits, sustaining life, the forest bears,
No cheering flowers nor yet a sheltering cave.

The brake impenetrable closes round
Thence the dense clouds of stinging insects come,
Maddening with venom every cruel wound,
Vexing the spirit with their ceaseless hum.

No hope, no hope! the soul within him dies
He seeks a sepulture within the sands,
Once more unto his mother's breast he flies,
And scoops a self-made grave with bleeding hands.

The river moans in solemn strains his dirge
The unfeeling birds upon the tree tops sing,
Or in the distant skies their pinions urge,
Southward to regions of perpetual spring.

He bids farewell to life its joys so sweet
Children and mother, happy, happy home,
But yesterday, ran out his steps to greet,
And bless his coming who no more shall come.

He bids farewell, and seals it with a prayer
That lonely beach resounded with the word.
Keep them, All Gracious, in thy tender care,
Thou art the widow's, Thou the orphans' God.

Then downward lying on earth's kindly lap,
He draws the sand as a thick blanket o'er,
And strives in dreamless quietude to sleep,
Vexed by life's fears and hungerings no more.

But hark, O joy! the voice, the voice of man!
Springing with heart elastic from his bed,
Life's strong desires in him revive again,
And hopes that seemed but now forever fled.

A gallant boat doth down the river come,
A hundred men upon its margin crowd
Surely among the many there are some
Who know the Mystic Sign, the Holy Word!

He makes the Signal and the Signal Cry
The pitying crowds his frantic gestures see
The echoing shores his solemn words swept by,
O, God, is there no help, no help for me?

Alas, no help! 'tis thus that traitors work
Ay, even so full many a gallant boat,
Decoyed by pirates, as they grimly lurk,
Has met the brand, or the destructive shot.

Yearning to stop and save him, how they gaze!
Some answering who know not what they do,
Some weep, some turn away in sheer amaze,
And so the vessel vanishes from view.

All then is death and solitude again
Months pass a wary hunter hurrying by,
Sees on the beach the sad decay of man,
And gives a grave for kind humanity.

Aad in the silence of the winter night,
A voice from that poor skeleton is heard:
The heart of man is smitten with a blight,
There is no help but in the pitying God!
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