Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Wreck of the Hesperus

A guest post from Jennfro's better half.

This past Christmas I received one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. A memory that was forgotten and thought to have been lost forever came in a form as a book / audiobook entitled Childrens Tales put together by my mom. This takes me back 30 plus years when I would spend countless hours listening to audiobooks narrated and produced by my Grandfather. Each of us kids had a personal tape recorder (mine was blue) and audiobooks w/ illustrated booklets to read alongside .... Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Wizard of Oz, Land of Oz, Rip van Winkle and my favorite..Hiawatha. They are all  too long to post, but  along with the stories were some additional poems with another favorite by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “The Wreck of the Hesperus”. This poem haunted me as a child and even now as an adult I find it hard to not tear up as I hear  the voice of my estranged and deceased Grandfather. He definitely was a talented narrator. Enjoy...

It was the schooner Hesperus, 
That sailed the wintery sea; 
And the skipper had taken his little daughter, 
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax, 
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds, 
That ope in the month of May.

The Skipper he stood beside the helm, 
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow 
The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailor, 
Had sailed the Spanish Main,
"I pray thee, put into yonder port,
 for I fear a hurricane.
"Last night the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we see!"

The skipper, he blew whiff from his pipe, 
And a scornful laugh laughed he.
Colder and louder blew the wind, 
A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine, 
And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable's length.

"Come hither! come hither! my little daughter,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow."
He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.

"O father! I hear the church bells ring,
Oh, say, what may it be?"
"Tis a fog-bell on a rock bound coast!" --
And he steered for the open sea.

"O father! I hear the sound of guns; 
Oh, say, what may it be?"
Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!"
"O father! I see a gleaming light. 
Oh say, what may it be?"
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.
Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
 That saved she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave, 
On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear, 
Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept 
Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between 
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf, 
On the rocks and hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows, 
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew 
Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves 
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side 
Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
 A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair, 
Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast, 
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed, 
On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
God save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman's Woe!

I find this poem fitting as it describes the poor decision of a skipper, his stubborness and pride, and the horrific consequential destruction of a ship, his crew and his lovely daughter. I find it sad because listening to these stories make me long for a relationship that was missed and misunderstood. It really is a tragic story (both the Hesperus and the McEwen family). My only comfort lies in a hope that an afterlife brings forgiveness and reconciliation. An afterlife where Christ really does save us all from our mistakes,  After all (like the skipper) my grandfather really loved his daughter - as do I. Thanks Mom for the gift, now my kids get to enjoy their great grandfather.


jill said...

That was SO neat Nick!!! I agree your Grandfather was an amazing narrator! I have such a fond memory of sitting by the fire in your parents living room and your mother reciting this poem. I loved it! It's so melancholy.

It's so true that Christ will heal your family and in the words of President Hinckley "everything will turn out." And it will.

I wish it would happen sooner than later though so we can use that awesome Valley Mill pool again...

Anonymous said...

That was a great. What a neat gift to have for your children. I would like to hear the other stories.

Jayne Layne said...

That was GREAT Nick! That poem is so sad, I can imagine you that sticking with you as a child. W

What a great gift to receive. Your mom never ceases to amaze me. And yes, in due time your family will reconcile and be healed. I just know it!

Thanks for sharing, nothing but love my brother.

Ann Marie said...

Again.. Your family is amazing!
What a great poem..Kind of haunting...
I like these "guest" bloggers..
Fun post!
Great lessons to be learned!

Anonymous said...

I almost didn't realize there was a button to play the narration. You should make it clear where to press play. That was cool with all the sound effects! Your grandfather has/had a great voice. Thanks for posting.

VEGAS VIC said...

Thanks Nick, that was very nice of you to share that with all of us.
You're whole family is so wonderful. I am sure grandpa will take his rightful place with all of you one day.

Super Duper Gus said...

When I was but a squirrel, I used to fantasize that Mary was MY Mom. This only shows that mt instincts were right!

Anonymous said...

Nick I just love your family. YOu guys always have and do the neatest things. I would love for my kids to listen to these stories I am sure they would love them. The story I heard was so neat and the sound effects were great also. Thanks for sharing. Kel

Mitch said...

That was a cool story duder. Thanks a lot. I know for a fact that it'll be mended one day. If Janeya and i could mend our wounds, then anybody can(ask jennifer for details). Thanks man. Good stuff!