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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Alec Yeaton’s Son

By Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907)

Gloucester, August, 1720

THE WIND it wailed, the wind it moaned,

And the white caps flecked the sea;

“An’ I would to God,” the skipper groaned,

“I had not my boy with me!”

Snug in the stern-sheets, little John

Laughed as the scud swept by;

But the skipper’s sunburnt cheek grew wan

As he watched the wicked sky.

“Would he were at his mother’s side!”

And the skipper’s eyes were dim.

“Good Lord in heaven, if ill betide,

What would become of him!

“For me—my muscles are as steel,

For me let hap what may;

I might make shift upon the keel

Until the break o’ day.

“But he, he is so weak and small,

So young, scarce learned to stand—

O pitying Father of us all,

I trust him in thy hand!

“For thou who markest from on high

A sparrow’s fall—each one!—

Surely, O Lord, thou’lt have an eye

On Alec Yeaton’s son!”

Then, helm hard-port; right straight he sailed

Towards the headland light:

The wind it moaned, the wind it wailed,

And black, black fell the night.

Then burst a storm to make one quail,

Though housed from winds and waves—

They who could tell about that gale

Must rise from watery graves!

Sudden it came, as sudden went;

Ere half the night was sped,

The winds were hushed, the waves were spent,

And the stars shone overhead.

Now, as the morning mist grew thin,

The folk on Gloucester shore

Saw a little figure floating in

Secure, on a broken oar!

Up rose the cry, “A wreck! a wreck!

Pull mates, and waste no breath!”—

They knew it, though ’twas but a speck

Upon the edge of death!

Long did they marvel in the town

At God his strange decree,

That let the stalwart skipper drown

And the little child go free!