E. J. Brady
A BLISTERED span of blazing sand,
A burning arch of sky…
Despair and Death on either hand…
Alone…And so to die.
A sandbank in the Indian Sea,
With not a patch of shade…
An atoll in the awful sea,
Outside the tracks of trade.
Here write I this…and gaunt fiends too
Have written, mocking me—
One thrice-cursed wretch of all a crew,
One saved of twenty-three.
For twenty-two the sharks have ta’en,
And hungrily they fed;
For twenty-two ha' done with pain.
They suffered…They are dead.
One yet survives…Just God, the thirst
That tears my veins to-day…
The last! the last!…Why last, not FIRST?
…And why not yesterday?
No sail! No chance! I've tried to pray!
The end i-s coming—close…
Christ, ease my soul! Ah, take away
That face!…Ah, Nancy Mose!
The calm, wide waste! The sky spread clear!
All things to jibe my woe!
The girl who waits—so dear, so dear!
My Nance! I loved her so.
And I had sworn to come back soon!
…That this should be the last!
A boiling surf! A mad typhoon!
An hour! And all—the Past!
One battered wretch to fight for breath
And beat the breakers through—
Spared. Spared! My God! when kinder Death
Has smiled on twenty-two.
Not mad…not yet: but deep in Hell,
Ten fathoms deep, I've seen!…
Kind God, I sinned! Thou knowest well..
But I was living clean.
Clean for her sake!…
Just now I stood
Where cool, clear water flows…
And rushed to drink!…I fell…My God!
…Ah, Nancy—Nancy Mose!
I've prayed to Christ to let me go
I've cursed, I've called, I've cried…
And all the world may never know
The horrid way I died.
A heap of bones that wind and sun
Bleach whiter day by day—
A thing that festers in the sun!
A woman far away.
Out there! Out there! Ah, pain! I think..
Cool, beaded wines..iced, frothing beer!
Food! Food! Yes, food! Yes, food and drink!
…Oh! I am raving…here.
Have sucked the vein..have eaten..sand!
May Jesus pity me!
My brain gone strange to-day…my hand
Here signed…of twenty-three!
The Bristol, ship..bound out..Rangoon..
Hard hit…nor'-east typhoon;
All hands…lost…lost…but me.
The Bristol, ship…in case ye find
The bottle…tell—if…none but those
Who suffer thirst…am going blind…
God bless you…Nancy Mose!
Floated round, and washed around;
Flung a thousand leagues;
Carried round and eddied round
In ocean's mad intrigues—
Grim words upon a shred of cloth,
With human blood scrawled red,
A drifted tale of wreck and wrath—
And thus the Bottle said.
But only those can know and care
Who fight the Sea for bread
The inner Truth, red-written there,
Of what the Bottle said.