has kindly shared the material
from his Robert Buchanan site with readers of the
All on a windy night of yule,
When snow was falling white
We sat all warm in the marish farm
Around the yule-logs bright.
The clock ticked low, and the wind did blow,
And the snow was heaped and blown;
And we laughed and talked, but granddad sat
As still as any stone.
As still he sat as a cold, gray stone
Upon the lone sea-sands,
His thin, gray hair as white as foam,
Like drifting weeds his hands.
His eyes were dead, and dull, and cold,
As the jelly-fish on the rock,
His ears were closed, and his heart kept time
To the ticking of the clock.
His cheeks were pale, his lips were dumb,
He sat in the ingle-glow,
Still as a stone on the lone sea-sand,
Though the tide doth come and go;
Though the sun may come on its moist, cold side,
And make a glistering gleam;
Though the storm may dash, and the lightning flash,
And the startled sea-bird scream.
Too late! too late! he is old, so old,
He hears no human call;
He cannot smile, he cannot weep,
His blood flows on as dark as sleep -
He lives, and that is all.
"Granddad, granddad, look up and speak
To thy grandchild Marjorie!"
He does not stir, but sits and smiles,
Like one who doth not see.
He sits and faintly feels the fire,
And fondles his thin knees;
Flash the light, and rattle the log -
He neither hears nor sees.
"Granddad! here is thy daughter Joan,
Come o'er with Cousin Jane!"
"Ay, ay," he cries, with a feeble flush,
Then his soul shuts again.
"Ay, ay" - the words have a strange sea-sound
As they leave his feeble lips,
Of the blowing wind and the tossing sea,
And the men who sail in ships.
All year long he sat by the fire,
And we had heard strange tales
Of his life of old, when he tossed and rolled
Amid the lonesome gales.
And often when his chair was wheeled
Without into the sun,
And he sat in the porch, we whispered low
Of the deeds that he had done.
For round his life a mystery hung,
No soul could wholly clear,
And we children had heard that he had been
A bloody buccaneer;
That the stain of blood was on his hands,
That his soul was black and deep,
That he had seen such sights as made
His spirit shriek in sleep;
That the red, round gold his hands had gained
Was dyed with blood ofİ men;
And, as we spake, our voices sank,
And we looked at him again.
Sometimes his face would flash to fire,
And his hands would clutch his chair,
And some bloody scene within his soul
Would shake him unaware.
Sometimes his cold lips would unclose,
And talk in a strange tongue,
And his voice would quicken, his thin arms move,
And all his ways grow young.
Sometimes his voice was fierce and loud,
As if he trod the deck;
Sometimes he seemed to toil like men
Who swim from ships a-wreck.
But ever the life he lived went on
Within his soul alone;
To all the wash of the waves of life
He kept as cold as stone.
Yet oft his face would lie in peace,
As if he knew no sin,
With a light that came not from without,
But issued from within;
A light like glistening light that sleeps
On the wet rock by the sea,
As if his thoughts were all at rest,
And some blue heaven within his breast
Was opening tranquilly.
Suddenly on that night of yule,
While we sat whispering there,
The old worn shape waved up his arms,
And sprang from out his chair.
"See, see!" he cried, and his hair was blown
Around his brow and eyes;
He pointed with his skinny hand,
And uttered eager cries.
"Now, granddad, granddad, sit thee down,
There is no creature nigh!"
He answered not, but stood erect,
With wildly-glistening eye.
"Hush! man the boats!" and in our sight
Firm up and down he trod.
"Form line! who stirs a footstep dies!
She's sinking - pray to God!
"Nail down the hatches! If the slaves
Climb up, we all must drown.
If one among them stirs a foot,
Shoot, hew, and hack him down!
"Away - she sinks!" and both his ears
He stopped as he did speak.
"Saved, saved!" he moaned, then trembling stood
With tears upon his cheek.
"God pardon me, and cleanse my soul!"
He murmured with thin moan,
Then raised his hands into the air,
And dropped as dead as stone!
(From Miscellaneous Poems and Ballads, 1878-83.)
Last modified 27 September 2002