Tobermory Bay. 1588.

A poem by John Campbell

In the vapour and haze on the ocean,
Where the skies and the waters meet,
There's a form that drifts, phantom-like, onward
As it follows the grey clouds' feet.

O'er the sea come the winds and the billows,
And they howl to the rocks, and they cry,
They will bring them a wreck on the morrow,
Ere the joy of the tempest die.

The shade looming dark in the distance
Is naught but a galleon proud;
And the spray has long battered her turrets,
And loosened each yard and each shroud;

But not on the surf-beaten islands,
Nor yet upon Morven's land,
Does she drive, for her rudder, unshattered,
Is firm in the steersman's hand.

No mist wreath, no cloud, was the shadow
That moved on the height of the seas;
Like a castle how steep are her bulwarks,
Her spars like a forest of trees!

She is safe from the gales for a season,
In the shelter and calm of the sound;
A harbour named after the Virgin,
The "Well of Our Lady" she found.

She may rest in that haven, hill-girdled,
Near the shade of the woods on the shore,
Where the hush of the forest is deepened
By the waterfall's song evermore.

How grandly her masts rise to heaven,
How glitters the blest Mary's form,
High placed o'er the stern, and upholding
The Prince of our Peace through the storm!

Now waters their orisons murmur
As they fold her bright robes to their breast,
Where they mirror the galleried windows,
And the flag and the face of the Blest.

Again with that sign and the banner
Of the gold and the crimson of Spain,
Shall this ship front the foes of the Virgin,
And the English be chased from the Main.

Yes, again on the heretic Saxon
Her cannon shall thunder in scorn,
Till in triumph through insolent England
Shall the Faith and King Philip be borne.

But the rows of dark mouths that have spoken
Defiance with sulphurous breath,
Glisten black, stretching forth in the silence,
And in vain ask the presence of death.

Yes, repose and surcease of all hazard,
A truce to all war for a time!
The cliffs and the pines only echo
The laugh of a sunnier clime.

And gaily the dark-visaged seamen
Quaff, cursing the mists and the rain;
Gravely drinking from goblets of silver
Sits their chief, Don Fereija of Spain. [1]

But the souls of the men to whose nostrils
Had risen the smoke of the fight,
Soon tired of the shore and of slumber,
Soon yearned for the red battle light.

And courtesy fled from the weary,
From idleness arrogance grew;
And all they received as a favour
They haughtily claimed as their due.

Then answered the Islesmen in anger,
"The food you demand as your own,
By our people's free favour long given
Shall be bought by your gold now alone."

"Now, down with the savage's envoy,
Set sail and away on our track!
Carthagena's sweet girls shall deride him,
And jeer the red locks on his back."

Below, in the dark narrow spaces,
The Islesman gropes, down in the hold;
Unnoticed, and one among many;
What harm can his hatred unfold?

Swarm the men to the rigging, and swiftly
Shine clouds of white canvas, and clank
The links of the anchor's great cable,
Creaks, trampled on deck, every plank:

Swings round the huge bowsprit, and slowly
With motion majestic and free,
The galleon, vast, gilded, and mighty,
Passes on, passes forth, to the sea.

Her colours still paint all the ripples,
Repeated her banners all seem,
Her sails, and her gold, and her cannon
Float on like a gorgeous dream.

Came a flash, and a roar, and a smoke-cloud
Rushed up, and spread far o'er the sky;
Sank a wreck, black, and rugged, and blasted,
While the sound on the winds swept by.

And the mountains sent back the dull thunder
As though to all time they would tell
The vengeance that pealed to the Heavens
From the Harbour of "Mary's Well."

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