William Morris Archive

Fragment: And then as the ship moves over the deep

Draft in B. L. Add. MS 45,298A, ff. 14; copies in Emma Morris's hand; see The Mosque Rising in the Place of the Temple of Solomon.
Listed as a fragment, though possibly it is complete.

[f. 14] And then as the ship moves over the deep,
She moves with her mariners all asleep;
     They dream very sweetly.
And so our ship moved on through the night
Swiftly sailèd, under the light,
     Swiftly and gently.
And all our mariners lay asleep
I did not dream, I did not sleep.
     The Mermaid sang gently.
Under the moon I saw the surf,
I heard the mermaid gently laugh,
     As we sailed to it.
I knew the coral reef was there[--]
I could not speak, I could not stir[,]
Though we sailed to it.
Scarce can I my wild tale tell
While the wave sounds like a knell.
Now my hair is very grey;
On the morning of that day
Black it curled about my brow[,]
That was very long ago.
That night beneath the moon[.]
To the surf we sailed on;
[14v] As I gazed, it seemed to me
That it was the rock, not we,
That movèd over the sea.
O! how horrible was the crash,
And a fiery straining flash
Dazzled my doomèd eyes
Instead of the light of the skies
Which were so blue above
Where the moon and the clouds did rove.
Jesu! how the shrieks rang out!
How the shriek rang, and the shout!
     As the ship staggered;
     As the masts wavered,
As the ship sank through the blue water[.]
* * * * * * * * * * *
Over are waved the boughs of the palm[,]
When I woke up all things were calm
     In the dreary desert isle.
How many years have I wandered here,
By the purple sea, through the purple air,
     In the dreary desert isle?
Notches I cut for each day in the year
In the bark of the palm, that rises in air
     In the dreary desert isle.

Note by Peter Wright:
This poem suggests an episode from the sea-borne tales of the Arabian Nights, e. g. the shipwreck in the third royal beggar's tale (about night no. 18), or one of Sinbad's voyages.