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OLD Sir James of Bonney Castle

Longed to reach the northern pole;

Shorter paths to reach rich Cathay

Were the yearnings of his soul.

And he pondered in his study,

With old maps and charts and plans;

Working on a task as toilsome

As the fabled rope of sands.

He had sailed on many a water,

Weathered oft the boisterous gale;

Wintered in a sunless summer, -

But as yet to no avail.

Braver sailor never ventured

Where no other man had been;

He had gone and come full often,

In his ripe threescore and ten.

Quaint the port of Bonney Castle,

With its wharves that fringed the bay,

Gabled roofs and beaten sashes,

Houses clad with age's gray.

And the tower of the belfry,

With its sharp bold Gothic lines,

Carried back the thoughtful traveller

To the good old feudal times.

Old Sir James laid down his atlas,

Taking up his last voyage's log,

Lit his lamp and closed the shutters,

Bolting out the night and fog.

Reading, dozing, till unconscious,

Once again he sailed the sea;

Toward the north his stanch ship battled

With the waves for mastery.

And again the leaden storm-clouds

Settled on a foaming deep,

While the hardy sailor shuddered

At the tempest of his sleep.

And his trembling hand at random

Grasped the compass, by his side. -

"Two points north, and steady, skipper,"

Loud the anxious dreamer cried.

Still in dreams the angry billows

Lashed in white caps, through the night

Flashed and faded in the darkness

With a vague, uncertain light.

And the creaking masts and timbers

Quivered with the rising gale,

Yet the ship went plunging onward,

Groaning with her press of sail.

And they still kept beating northward,

While gaunt icebergs drifted by;

Rarely sun at early daybreak

Lighted up this dreary sky.

But his cheery voice yet murmured,

Though his breath came long and hard, -

"Courage, sailors, steady, skipper,

Two points north, brace every yard."

All at once a distant signal

Boomed across the raging main;

And the dreamer caught its echo,

Flung the shutters back again.

And he cried with thankful fervor,

And a dying hero's force, -

"Yonder, see, the fog is lifting,

There for India shape our course."

And the folk of Bonney Castle

Speak with reverence, as they show

One old ruin where the creepers,

All neglected, wildly grow.

And they tell in bated whispers,

How upon one wintry morn,

When the maid went to the study,

She had found her master gone.

And the boatswain of a vessel

That had sought the sheltered bay

Said he saw, at early daybreak,

An icy ship that sailed away.

And he swore upon the good Book,

That he heard its master say,

"Two points north, and courage, sailors;

We 'll be home before 't is day."

W. L. C.

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