THE BURIAL OF THE DANE
by: Henry Howard Brownell
gulf all around us,
- Blue sky overhead --
- Muster all on the quarter,
- We must bury the dead!
- It is but a Danish sailor,
- Rugged of front and form;
- A common son of the forecastle,
- Grizzled with sun and storm.
- His name, and the strand he hailed from
- We know, and there's nothing more!
- But perhaps his mother is waiting
- In the lonely Island of Fohr.
- Still, as he lay there dying,
- Reason drifting awreck,
- "'T is my watch," he would mutter,
- "I must go upon deck!"
- Aye, on deck, by the foremast!
- But watch and lookout are done;
- The Union Jack laid o'er him,
- How quiet he lies in the sun!
- Slow the ponderous engine,
- Stay the hurrying shaft;
- Let the roll of the ocean
- Cradle our giant craft;
- Gather around the grating,
- Carry your messmate aft!
- Stand in order, and listen
- To the holiest page of prayer!
- Let every foot be quiet,
- Every head be bare --
- The soft trade-wind is lifting
- A hundred locks of hair.
- Our captain reads the service,
- (A little spray on his cheeks)
- The grand old words of burial,
- And the trust a true heart seeks: --
- "We therefore commit his body
- To the deep" -- and, as he speaks,
- Launched from the weather railing,
- Swift as the eye can mark,
- The ghastly, shotted hammock
- Plunges away from the shark,
- Down, a thousand fathoms,
- Down into the dark!
- A thousand summers and winters
- The stormy Gulf shall roll
- High o'er his canvas coffin;
- But, silence to doubt and dole: --
- There's a quiet harbor somewhere
- For the poor aweary soul.
- Free the fettered engine,
- Speed the tireless shaft,
- Loose to'gallant and topsail,
- The breeze is far abaft!
- Blue sea all around us,
- Blue sky bright o'erhead --
- Every man to his duty,
- We have buried our dead!
MORE POEMS BY HENRY HOWARD BROWNELL
"The Burial of the Dane"
is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900.
Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.