The Phantom Ship
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In Mather's Magnalia Christi,
Of the old colonial time,
May be found in prose the legend
That is here set down in rhyme.
A ship sailed from New Haven,
And the keen and frosty airs,
That filled her sails at parting,
Were heavy with good men's prayers.
O Lord! if it be thy pleasure--
Thus prayed the old divine--
To bury our friends in the ocean,
Take them, for they are thine!
But Master Lamberton muttered,
And under his breath said he,
This ship is so crank and walty,
I fear our grave she will be!
And the ship that came from England,
When the winter months were gone,
Brought no tidings of this vessel,
Nor of Master Lamberton.
This put the people to praying
That the Lord would let them hear
What in His greater wisdom
He had done with friends so dear.
And at last their prayers were answered:--
It was in the month of June,
An hour before the sunset
Of a windy afternoon,
When, steadily steering landward,
A ship was seen below,
And they knew it was Lamberton, Master,
Who sailed so long ago.
On she came, with a cloud of canvas,
Right against the wind that blew.
Until the eye could distinguish
The faces of the crew.
Then fell her straining topmasts,
Hanging tangled in the shrouds,
And her sails were loosened and lifted,
And blown away like clouds.
And the masts, with all their rigging,
Fell slowly, one by one,
And the hulk dilated and vanished,
As a sea-mist in the sun!
And the people who saw this marvel
Each said unto his friend,
That this was the mould of their vessel,
And thus her tragic end.
And the pastor of the village
Gave thanks to God in prayer,
That, to quiet their troubled spirits,
He had sent this Ship of Air.
REVEREND AND DEAR SIR, In Compliance with your Desires, I now give you the Relation of that Apparition of a Ship in the Air, which I have received from the most Credible, Judicious and urious Surviving Observers of it. "
In the Year 1647 besides much other Lading, a far more Rich Treasure of Passengers, (Five or Six of which were Persons of chief Note and Worth in New-Haven) put themselves on Board a New Ship, built at Rhode-Island, of about 150 Tuns ; but so walty, that the Master, (Lamberton) often said she would prove their Grave. In the Month of January, cutting their way thro' much Ice, on which they were accompanied with the Reverend Mr. Davenport, besides many other Friends, with many Fears, as well as Prayers and Tears, they set Sail. Mr. Davenport in Prayer with an observable Emphasis used these Words, Lord, if it be thy pleasure to bury these our Friends in the bottom of the Sea, they are thine; save them ! The Spring following no Tidings of these Friends arrived with the Ships from England': New-Haven's Heart began to fail her: This put the Godly People on much Prayer, both Publick and Private, That the Lord would (if it was his Pleasure) let them hear what he had done with their dear friends, and prepare them with a suitable Submission to his Holy Will. In June next ensuing, a great Thunder-Storm arose out of .the NorthWest; after which, (the Hemisphere being serene) about an hour before Sun-set a SHIP of like dimensions with the aforesaid, with her Canvas and Colours abroad (tho' the Wind Northernly) appeared in the Air coming up from our Harbour's Mouth, which lyes Southward from the Town, seemingly with her Sails filled under a fresh Gale, holding her Course North, and continuing under Observation, Sailing against the Wind for the space of half an Hour. Many were drawn to behold this great Work of God; yea, the very Children cry'd out, There's a Brave Ship / At length, crouding up as far as there is usually Water sufficient for such a Vessel, and so near some of the Spectators as that they imagined a Man might hurl a Stone on Board her, her Maintop seem'd to be blown off, but left hanging in the Shrouds ; then her Missentop; then all her Masting seemed blown away by the Board : Quickly after the Hulk brought into a Careen, she overset, and so vanished into a smoaky Cloud, which in some time dissipated, leaving, as everywhere else, a clear Air. The admiring Spectators could distinguish the several Colours of each Part, the Principal Riging, and such Proportions, as caused not only the generality of Persons to say, This was the Mould of their Ship, and thus was her Tragick End: But Mr. Davenport also in publick declared to this Effect, That God had condescended, for the quieting of their afflicted Spirits, this Extraordinary Account of his Sovereign Disposal of those for • whom so many Fervent Prayers were made continually. Thus I am, Sir, Your Humble Servant, JAMES PIERPONT.
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