ON ocean waters, sound, and bay,
The twinkling Maytime sunbeams play,
And white with foam the billows shine
Where the moss-bunkers lash the brine.
Above them flocks of seagulls swing;
Beneath, the hungry bluefish spring,
And, deadlier still, the surf-men strain
The oar, and run the meshing seine.
Where sweeps the broad and breezy bay
Engirt by shores with woodlands gay,
In shoals innumerable as sands
That sparkle in the wrinkled strands,
The bunkers gather on the flood,
Roaming the ocean-paths for food;
And here the fisher-boats invade,
Deep with the shining burden weighed.
Off by the low New Jersey shore,
Off where Long Island surges roar,
Off where the Narragansett Bay
Its tribute to the sea doth pay,
Off Massachusetts' Bay profound,
Off Maine shores with their pine woods crown'd,
Off where the billows chafe and fret
O'er rocks along New Brunswick set,
The fish innumerable pass
O'er tumbling seas, or seas of glass.
The watchman's eye from sandy mound,
Or eyrie in some tall tree found,
Surveys the broad extended main,
Views of the fishy shoal to gain;
And when the welcome prize draws near
In acres, o'er the waters clear,
He hoists his signal to the breeze,
That all may hasten to the seas.
Then rush the crews from shop and field,
Leave plough in glebe the oar to wield;
The surf-boat down the beach is drawn,
The oar is seiz'd with arm of brawn,
The boat is launch'd where breakers pour,
While guides the helmsman with the oar.
Then hard and emulous the toil,
Rivals all anxious for the spoil;
The ablest boat, the manliest crew,
Tug hard with muscle and with thew,
And victor in the race surrounds
The leaping fish with snaring bounds;
Then laden is the boat, till more
May not be added to the store.
They pull for shore, and soon the soil
Is opulent with scaly spoil;
In glittering heaps the shiny hoard
O'er all the yellow sand is pour'd;
And not the wealth of Indian mines,
Dug deep where never sunbeam shines,
So fair, so gorgeous to behold
As this rich spoil of blue and gold.
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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