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

Gloucester Moors

By William Vaughn Moody (1869–1910)

A MILE behind is Gloucester town

Where the fishing fleets put in,

A mile ahead and the land dips down

And the woods and farms begin.

Here, where the moors stretch free

In the high blue afternoon,

Are the marching sun and talking sea

And the racing winds that wheel and flee

On the flying heels of June.

Jill-o’er-the-ground is purple blue,

Blue is the quaker-maid,

The wild geranium holds its dew

Long in the boulder’s shade.

Wax-red hangs the cup

From the huckleberry boughs,

In barberry bells the gray moths sup,

Or where the choke-cherry lifts high up

Sweet bowls for their carouse.

Over the shelf of the sandy cove

Beach-peas blossom late.

By copse and cliff the swallows rove

Each calling to his mate.

Seaward the sea-gulls go,

And the land-birds all are here;

That green-gold flash was a vireo,

And yonder flame where the marsh-flags grow

Was a scarlet tanager.

This earth is not the steadfast place

We landsmen build upon;

From deep to deep she varies pace,

And while she comes is gone.

Beneath my feet I feel

Her smooth bulk heave and dip;

With velvet plunge and soft upreel

She swings and steadies to her keel

Like a gallant, gallant ship.

These summer clouds she sets for sail,

The sun is her masthead light,

She tows the moon like a pinnace frail

Where her phosphor wake churns bright.

Now hid, now looming clear,

On the face of the dangerous blue

The star fleets tack and wheel and veer,

But on, but on does the old earth steer

As if her port she knew.

God, dear God! Does she know her port,

Though she goes so far about?

Or blind astray, does she make her sport

To brazen and chance it out?

I watched when her captains passed:

She were better captainless.

Men in the cabin, before the mast,

But some were reckless and some aghast,

And some sat gorged at mess.

By her battened hatch I leaned and caught

Sounds from the noisome hold,—

Cursing and sighing of souls distraught

And cries too sad to be told.

Then I strove to go down and see;

But they said, “Thou art not of us!”

I turned to those on the deck with me

And cried, “Give help!” But they said, “Let be:

Our ship sails faster thus.”

Jill-o’er-the-ground is purple blue,

Blue is the quaker-maid,

The alder-clump where the brook comes through

Breeds cresses in its shade.

To be out of the moiling street

With its swelter and its sin!

Who has given to me this sweet,

And given my brother dust to eat?

And when will his wage come in?

Scattering wide or blown in ranks,

Yellow and white and brown,

Boats and boats from the fishing banks

Come home to Gloucester town.

There is cash to purse and spend,

There are wives to be embraced,

Hearts to borrow and hearts to lend,

And hearts to take and keep to the end,—

O little sails, make haste!

But thou, vast outbound ship of souls,

What harbor town for thee?

What shapes, when thy arriving tolls,

Shall crowd the banks to see?

Shall all the happy shipmates then

Stand singing brotherly?

Or shall a haggard ruthless few

Warp her over and bring her to,

While the many broken souls of men

Fester down in the slaver’s pen,

And nothing to say or do?