Drowned at Sea [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Poems and Songs (1862).]

Drowned at Sea.

Gloomy cliffs, so worn and wasted with the washing of the waves,
Are ye not like giant tombstones round those lonely ocean graves ?
Are ye not the sad memorials, telling of a mighty grief —
Dark with records ground and lettered into caverned rock and reef ?
Oh ! ye show them, and I know them, and my thoughts in mourning go
Down amongst your sunless chasms, deep into the surf below !
Oh ! ye bear them, and declare them, and o’er every cleft and scar,
I have wept for dear dead brothers perished in the lost Dunbar !
Ye smitten — ye battered,
And splintered and shattered
Cliffs of the Sea !

Restless waves, so dim with dreams of sudden storms and gusty surge,
Roaring like a gathered whirlwind reeling round a mountain verge,
Were ye not like loosened maniacs, in the night when Beauty pale
Called upon her God, beseeching through the uproar of the gale ?
Were ye not like maddened demons while young children faint with fear
Cried and cried and cried for succour, and no helping hand was near ?
Oh, the sorrow of the morrow ! — lamentations near and far ! —
Oh, the sobs for dear dead sisters perished in the lost Dunbar ! —
Ye ruthless, unsated,
And hateful, and hated
Waves of the Sea !

Ay, we stooped and moaned in darkness — eyes might strain and hearts might plead,
For their darlings crying wildly, they would never rise nor heed !
Ay, we yearned into their faces looking for the life in vain,
Wailing like to children blinded with a mist of sudden pain !
Dear hands clenched, and dear eyes rigid in a stern and stony stare,
Dear lips white from past affliction, dead to all our mad despair,
Ah, the groaning and the moaning — ah, the thoughts which rise in tears
When we turn to all those loved ones, looking backward five long years !
The fathers and mothers,
The sisters and brothers
Drowned at Sea !

Henry Kendall, Poems and Songs, J. R. Clarke, Sydney, 1862, pages 120-122

Editor’s notes:
Dunbar = a sailing ship which was wrecked just outside of Sydney Harbour in 1857, with only one survivor, as 121 crew and passengers were drowned in the accident

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