One moonlit night a ship drove in,
A ghost ship from the west,
Drifting with bare mast and lone tiller,
Like a mermaid drest
In long green weed and barnacles:
She beached and came to rest.
All the watchers of the coast
Flocked to view the sight,
Men and women streaming down
Through the summer night,
Found her standing tall and ragged
Beached in the moonlight.
Then one old woman looked and wept
‘The ‘Alice Jean’? But no!
The ship that took my Dick from me
Sixty years ago
Drifted back from the utmost west
With the ocean’s flow?
‘Caught and caged in the weedy pool
Beyond the western brink,
Where crewless vessels lie and rot
in waters black as ink.
Torn out again by a sudden storm
Is it the ‘Jean’, you think?’
A hundred women stared agape,
The menfolk nudged and laughed,
But none could find a likelier story
For the strange craft.
With fear and death and desolation
Rigged fore and aft.
The blind ship came forgotten home
To all but one of these
Of whom none dared to climb aboard her:
And by and by the breeze
Sprang to a storm and the ‘Alice Jean’
Foundered in frothy seas.