OFF where Nantucket's sandy isle
Juts seaward with the reef and bar,
And where the Martha Vineyard rocks
Baffle the surges fierce and far,
The hardy fishers launch the boat
With courage that no perils daunt,
To grapple with the dangerous foe,
The sword-fish, in his ocean haunt.
Skilful are they with sharp harpoon,
Skilful to wield the deadly lance;
For ofttimes have they o'er the seas,
Where waves tumultuously dance,
Pursued in open boat the whale,
Though typhoon threaten'd with the gale.
Sailing the billows leagues from shore
With glass th' horizon's rim they sweep,
And where the foamy surges pour
They know the sword-fish play and leap;
Steady the helmsman guides the way,
High on the prow the spearman stands
With arm uprais'd and prompt to throw
The harpoon, quivering in his hands.
And when the heedless fish are near,
So near they brush the vessel's side,
He flings the prong'd death dealing spear,
Its very shaft with crimson dyed.
Now comes the danger, for the prey,
Madden'd with pain, may strike the boat,
Thro' plank may thrust its bony way,
So the poor craft may scarcely float.
An oaken cask, with frantic haste,
The spearman casts into the main,
And so the wounded creatures waste
On its tough sides their strength in vain,
Till sick, exhausted with the strife,
They end the struggle with their life.
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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