The Pirate


Andante con grazia e molto maestoso.

The morning dawns, and shakes the stars
    From the raven locks of the queen of night,
        Some ripple down into the sea,
            Some drown in the morning light.

The morning dawns, and strange white forms
    O’er the silent waters stray,
        As if they were searching for falling stars,
            Whose gold has dripped astray,
                             Slipped away
              From the rose of morn
               To the shoreless waste,
                That, dull and grey, with its misty bars,
                  Yields no reflection to the death of stars.

The morning dawns, and the starting breeze,
   Rends the curtain of silence and mist
       Whence, tinged with roseate morn,
   The pirate’s galleon drifts—
                    Away from the shore,
        Where the watchfires gleam
           And the sea-gulls scream,
               To her daily toil
                    In quest of spoil
                       To waylay some wanderer of the sea.

With plumage strange and wings outspread,
   Like some huge bird from earth long fled,
      The highwayman of the main
                           Veers his way
To some blood-red day,
    Out of the silent, gray and shoreless night,
        As the stars ripple down into the sea
            Or drown in the morning light.

            Allegro con passione

The sea is white with the noonday glare,
    Save a dark unrest and reddish flare
        That troubles the seashine in the West.

There the fight is on—
    With yards entangled and sails aflame,
        Enveloped in clouds that darken the sky,
            Two dark hulls, lashed fast together,
                Motionless on the noonday waters lie.

                              The fight is on—
Amidst the clank of weapons, and powder scent,
    The rattle of muskets, wild shuffle of feet,
        Like the hissing groans of some soul accursed,  
            With lightning flares and fanlike bursts,
                Pass shot and shell.

The mouth of the cannons grow a grinning stare,
    With blood are daubed masts and spars,
        And the sparks blown to the lurid air
            Fall on the sails like a rain of stars.

                              The fight is on—
Black death with his wings of flame
    Now dominates this scene,
        This scene of black and red.
            Like a snake of fire in dismal desire
                He coils up the rigging, chars every plank
                    And gnaws his way towards the powder tank,
                        While lurid streams of red
                             Gush from the wounded and dead
                                  To the passionless flood,
                                       Stained with fire and blood.

The hours pass, and the crews are thinned,
    Both demand quarter—but none will strike,
        And still they fight—and fight—and fight—
            Till the blackened masts crash on the burning decks,
                Strewn with bodies in formless stacks.
                    The shrieks of the wounded die away,
                        Silence takes the place of carnage and fray,
                            And as a change to all things must come—
                                Even death ceases his fire-song.

Riddled from bow to stern with leaks on the gain
The hulls sink deeper into the passionless main,
Still lashed together as in the hours of fight,
   Like wounded beasts in wild despair,
        They suddenly leap into the lurid air,
                     Then roll to the side
              And glide from the day’s waning light
                         Down to the dismal night
                            Of the passionless flood,
                              Stained with fire and blood.

The sun swings from the hovering murk,
    Dark crows, that follow the pirate’s wake,
        Flap over crushed timbers and shivered beams,
           Adrift on the blood-stained flood like dismal dreams.

            Adagio non lamentoso

Thirty times the cannons roar
    Over the black and barren shore
                   Of the pirate isle,
    Under whose rifts of shifting sand
        Lies buried the gold, the pirate’s hand
           Wrest from the sea wanderer of many a land.

On the black banner that never was furled
    Lies dead the pride of the pirate’s race
       The crew shifts over the quarter deck
            Once more to gaze at his stern sea face.

                Then the anchor is hoisted!—
                   Drenched in the twilight’s gold
                       The ship shakes out every sail
                          And sweeps before the gale
                              Towards the highway of the deep,
                                 To put its hero forever to sleep.

What mean now thy hords of gold
    A-dream in the depth of the wind blown sand?
        What remains of thy sea face fantastic and bold
            When you have reached that coral strand,
                          Where the mermaids dwell,
                 Who love their pirate sweethearts well?

                            A last farewell to the sun and air,
                             To the twilight flare
                               With its pennant unfold
                                  Of crimson and gold!
                                    As strapped to the plank
                                      On the gangway you stand,
                                         To make the bold leap
                                           To the emerald deep.

Harsh as the winds over your life have blown,
  Your fate will be in the lands unknown
           Of the moonstone twilights of the sea
    And as its currents toss thee from shore to shore
        Through coral halls on the moss-grown floor,
          Moss grown since the days of yore,
                               You still will be, 
                                 Fearless and free,
                                    Lord of the sea.

Finale sotte voce e legato.

On emerald waves o’er which the moonbeams flow,
   Lost like a song on the winds that blow,
     An enchanted castle, a phantom sail—
               In silent flight from the rolling orb
                 Pursuing the wanderers of the night—
                   Strays with the wayward breeze
                     To be lost on the murmuring seas,

Like a ghost that rose from some emerald tomb
To haunt the murmuring main
And tell the tale of the pirate’s doom,
The end of the seaking’s reign.

From reddened wave and blackened shore
  The galleon has vanished forever more
    In the moonstone twilights of the sea;
     And only the music the seaweed brings
       Tells of the dauntless deeds of the dead seakings.

From Drifting Flowers of the Sea and Other Poems (1904) by Sadakichi Hartmann. This poem is in the public domain.