The Master Of The Isles

A poem by William Bliss Carman

There is rumor in Dark Harbor,
And the folk are all astir;
For a stranger in the offing
Draws them down to gaze at her,

In the gray of early morning,
Black against the orange streak,
Making in below the ledges,
With no colors at her peak.

Something makes their hearts uneasy
As they watch the long black hull,
For she brings the storm behind her
While before her there is lull.

With no pilot and unspoken,
Where the dancing breakers are,
Presently she veers and races
In across the roaring bar,--

Rounds and luffs and comes to anchor,
While the wharf begins to throng.
Silence falls upon the women.
And misgiving stirs the strong.

Then with some obscure foreboding,
As a gray-haired watcher smiles,
They perceive the fearless captain
Is the Master of the Isles.

They recall the bleak December
Many streaming years ago,
When the stranger had been sighted
Driving shoreward with the snow;

When the Master came among them
With his calm and courtly pride,
And had sailed away at sundown
With pale Dora for his bride;

How again he came one summer
When the herring schools were late,
And had cleared before the morning
With old Alec's son for mate.

There was glamour with the Master;
He had tales of far-off seas;
But his habit and demeanor
Were of other lands than these.

He had never made the Harbor
But there sailed away with him
Wife or child or friend or lover,
Leaving eyes to strain and swim,--

Strain and wait for their returning;
Yet they never had come back;
For the pale wake of the Master
Is a wandering, fading track.

Just beyond our utmost fathom
Is the anchorage we crave,
But the Master knows the soundings
By the reach of every wave.

Just beyond the last horizon,
Vague upon the weather-gleam,
Loom the Faroff Isles forever,
The tradition of a dream.

There a white and brooding summer
Haunts upon the gray sea-plain,
Where the gray sea-winds are quiet
At the sources of the rain.

There where all world-weary dreamers
Get them forth to their release,
Lie the colonies of the kindred,
In the provinces of peace.

Thither in the stormy sunset
Will the Master sail to-night;
And the village will be silent
When he drops below the light.

Not a soul on all the hillside
But will watch her when she clears,
Dreaming of the Port o' Strangers
In the roadstead of the years.

"Port o' Strangers, Port o' Strangers!"
"Where away?" "On the weather bow."
"Drive her down the closing distance!"...
That's to-morrow, but not now.

What imperial adventure
Some wide morning it will be,
Sweeping in to Lonely Haven
From the chartless round of sea!

How imposing a departure,
While this little harbor smiles,
Steering for the outer sea-rim
With the Master of the Isles!

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