THE HERRING AND PILCHARD a Poem
THE HERRING AND PILCHARD
COUNTLESS your squadrons, numberless as the stars,
That sow with light the spaces of the skies,
Countless as sands that pave the ocean beach,
Ye migratory wanderers of the seas!
Your native homes lie in the Arctic North,
Where icy currents chafe the rocky coasts
In waters inaccessible, so fring'd with ice.
And here secure from man and finny foes,
The fin-fish and the chacalot, ye roam,
And here mid pastures of the insect food,
Ye feed till your great legions fill the seas,
And then like swarming bees ye thence migrate.
Then your vast colonies from Northern realms,
Depart to seek the southern billows of the main,
Ah! then what fate awaits ye, what fierce foes!
Fin-fish and grampus, porpoise and the shark
Make ye their easy prey; while hungry flocks
Of sea-fowl hover o'er your devious track.
As on your great shoals pass, insatiate foes,
Tigers of ocean tides surround your schools,
Until they separate like frightened sheep;
Some passing thick by European coasts,
Some crossing the Atlantic till they swarm
Around thy continent, America,
To seek in Chesapeake their last retreat;
So thick they move the ocean seems alive,
And black with their exhaustless multitudes;
Yet here the porpoise and the shark pursue,
Reddening the currents, while the fowl devour.
Soon by the Shetland Isles in April time,
They come, but not till June their swarming hosts
Collect, still ravag'd by the gull and hawk,
They pass in files distinct, long leagues in length,
Now lost in deep abysses of the sea,
Now rising to the surface, to reflect
Their twinkling, splendid colorings,
Like fields bespangled with the flowers of gold,
They spread along the stormy Norway shores,
By German coasts, and northern reefs of France.
And thence with shoals depleted they return,
To seek their native haunts in Arctic seas.
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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