A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Haunted Beach." by Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)

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The Haunted Beach

Upon a lonely desert beach,
   Where the white foam was scatter'd,
A little shed uprear'd its head,
   Though lofty barks were shatter'd.
The sea-weeds gathering near the door,
   A sombre path display'd;
And, all around, the deafening roar
Re-echoed on the chalky shore,
   By the green billows made.

Above a jutting cliff was seen
   Where sea-birds hover'd craving;
And all around the craggs were bound
   With weedsfor ever waving.
And here and there, a cavern wide
   lts shadowy jaws display'd;
And near the sands, at ebb of tide,
A shiver'd mast was seen to ride
   Where the green billows stray'd.

And often, while the moaning wind
   Stole o'er the summer ocean,
The moonlight scene was all serene,
   The waters scarce in motion;
Then, while the smoothly slanting sand
   The tall cliff wrapp'd in shade,
The fisherman beheld a band
Of spectres gliding hand in hand
   Where the green billows play'd.

And pale their faces were as snow,
   And sullenly they wander'd;
And to the skies with hollow eyes
   They look'd as though they ponder'd.
And sometimes, from their hammock shroud,
   They dismal howlings made,
And while the blast blew strong and loud,
The clear moon mark'd the ghastly crowd,
   Where the green billows play'd.

And then above the haunted hut
   The curlews screaming hover'd;
And the low door, with furious roar,
   The frothy breakers cover'd.
For in the fisherman's lone shed
   A murder'd man was laid,
With ten wide gashes in his head,
And deep was made his sandy bed
   Where the green billows play'd.

A shipwreck'd mariner was he,
   Doom'd from his home to sever
Who swore to be through wind and sea
   Firm and undaunted ever!
And when the wave resistless roll'd,
   About his arm he made
A packet rich of Spanish gold,
And, like a British sailor bold,
   Plung'd where the billows play'd.

The spectre band, his messmates brave,
   Sunk in the yawning ocean,
While to the mast he lash'd him fast,
   And braved the storm's commotion.
The winter moon upon the sand
   A silvery carpet made,
And mark'd the sailor reach the land,
And mark'd his murderer wash his hand
   Where the green billows play'd.

And since that hour the fisherman
   Has toil'd and toil'd in vain;
For all the night the moony light
   Gleams on the specter'd main!
And when the skies are veil'd in gloom,
   The murderer's liquid way
Bounds o'er the deeply yawning tomb,
And flashing fires the sands illume,
   Where the green billows play.

Full thirty years his task has been,
   Day after day more weary;
For Heaven design'd his guilty mind
   Should dwell on prospects dreary.
Bound by a strong and mystic chain,
   He has not power to stray;
But destined misery to sustain,
He wastes, in solitude and pain,
   A loathsome life away.

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