Lighthouse Poetry

I am not a poet, or I should re-phrase that and say that I can write about lighthouses, but I cannot write poetry about lighthouses, so I went on the Internet and started looking.

On my old site I had two links to lighthouse poetry, but only one seems to be working now.

Dan’s Lighthouse website has quite a few poems, most with a religious tone to them, but interesting reading. His poetry webpage is found here.

One of the poems found on Dan’s page is by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow. Most of you have heard of him, but have probably never heard his poem The Lighthouse written in 1848:

The Lighthouse
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882) 1

The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
and on its outer point, some miles away,
the lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day. 

Even at this distance I can see the tides,
Upheaving, break unheard along its base, 
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
in the white tip and tremor of the face. 

And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright,
through the deep purple of the twilight air,
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light,
with strange, unearhly splendor in the glare! 

No one alone: from each projecting cape
And perilous reef along the ocean’s verge,
Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
Holding its lantern o’er the restless surge. 

Like the great giant Christopher it stands
Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
Wading far out among the rocks and sands,
The night o’er taken mariner to save. 

And the great ships sail outward and return
Bending and bowing o’er the billowy swells,
And ever joyful, as they see it burn
They wave their silent welcome and farewells. 

They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
And eager faces, as the light unveils
Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze. 

The mariner remembers when a child,
on his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink
And when returning from adventures wild,
He saw it rise again o’er ocean’s brink. 

Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same,
Year after year, through all the silent night
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
Shines on that inextinguishable light! 

It sees the ocean to its bosum clasp
The rocks and sea-sand with the kiss of peace:
It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
And hold it up, and shake it like a fleece. 

The startled waves leap over it; the storm
Smites it with all the scourges of the rain, 
And steadily against its solid form
press the great shoulders of the hurricane. 

The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
of wings and winds and solitary cries,
Blinded and maddened by the light within,
Dashes himself against the glare, and dies. 

A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
Still grasping in his hand the fire of love,
it does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
but hails the mariner with words of love. 

“Sail on!” it says: “sail on, ye stately ships!
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse.
Be yours to bring man neared unto man.

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Here is another phenomenal link to a website, New England Lighthouse Wallpaper, that has many poems about lighthouses. More than I ever knew existed. Rather than asking the author’s permission to copy the poems, please click the link above.

One other link of interest is Lighthouses in Poetry. Worth a read as it has many references to other poems.

Does anyone out there have some Lighthouse Poetry that they know of, or would like to contribute? Send it on and I will publish it here. – JC

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In December 2011 an ex-lighthouse keeper from Scotland, Peter Hill wrote me – see his poems here.

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On January 15, 2012 Harvey Humchitt at Cape Scott lighthouse published the following.

I sit here at my window gazing, the family of deer on my station grazing.
Hoofing through the fresh fallin snow, looking for roots to help their young grow.
The sun paints the clouds all pink and red, and warns us what kind of weather’s ahead.
A young eagle flies, soaring, looking for his prey, right on….looks like another Cape Scott winter day. Facebook 20120115

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On the 24th of January, 2012, Colin Toner from McInness Island lighthouse published this on Facebook:

North Pacific Storms
The sky goes black as they approach 
the animals they flee
the mighty coastal spruce bow and fall to their knees
with a swing of an arm it kills the vain, the old, the weak, and the diseased
if you look into its heart too long your eyes no longer see
I tell you your gods still walk the earth 
we are just too blind to see

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See more under Lighthouse Quotations.

 

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FOOTNOTES:

1 Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was born in Portland, Maine, USA, then part of Massachusetts, was a frequent visitor to Portland Head Light in his younger years. Longfellow’s poem “The Lighthouse” was probably inspired by his many hours at Portland Head Light.

2 thoughts on “Lighthouse Poetry

  1. Hi there I am a former Lighthouse Keeper and have written a number of poems that you might like to post on this website….mostly about the ones I served on and all Scottish

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