[Page 248]


1 FREIGHTED with passengers of every sort,
2 A motley throng, thou leavest the busy port:
3 Thy long and ample deck, where scattered lie,
4 Baskets and cloaks and shawls of crimson dye;
5 Where dogs and children through the crowd are straying,
6 And on his bench apart the fiddler playing,
7 While matron dames to tresseled seats repair,
8 Seems, on the glassy waves, a floating fair.
9 Its dark form on the sky's pale azure cast,
10 Towers from this clustering group thy pillared mast;
11 The dense smoke, issuing from its narrow vent,
12 Is to the air in curly volumes sent,
[Page 249]
13 Which coiling and uncoiling on the wind,
14 Trails, like a writhing serpent, far behind.
15 Beneath, as each merged wheel its motion plies,
16 On either side the white-churned waters rise,
17 And newly parted from the noisy fray,
18 Track with light ridgy foam thy recent way,
19 Then far diverged, in many a lustrous line
20 On the still-moving distant surface shine.
21 Thou holdest thy course in independent pride;
22 No leave askest thou of either wind or tide.
23 To whate'er point the breeze inconstant veer,
24 Still doth thy careless helmsman onward steer;
25 As if the stroke of some magician's wand
26 Had lent thee power the ocean to command.
27 What is this power which thus within thee lurks,
28 And all unseen, like a masked giant works?
29 Even that which gentle dames at morning tea,
30 From silver urn ascending, daily see
31 With tressy wreathings borne upon the air
32 Like loosened ringlets of a lady's hair;
[Page 250]
33 Or rising from th' enamelled cup beneath,
34 With the soft fragrance of an infant's breath:
35 That which within the peasant's humble cot
36 Comes from the uncovered mouth of savoury pot,
37 As his kind mate prepares his noonday fare,
38 Which cur and cat and rosy urchins share;
39 That which, all silvered by the moon's pale beam
40 Precedes the mighty Geyser's up-cast stream,
41 What time, with bellowing din, exploded forth,
42 It decks the midnight of the frozen north,
43 While travellers from their skin-spread couches rise
44 To gaze upon the sight with wondering eyes.
45 Thou hast to those "in populous city pent"
46 Glimpses of wild and beauteous nature lent,
47 A bright remembrance ne'er to be destroyed,
48 That proves to them a treasure long enjoyed,
49 And for this scope to beings erst confined,
50 I fain would hail thee with a grateful mind.
[Page 251]
51 They who had nought of verdant freshness seen,
52 But suburb orchards choked with colworts green,
53 Now, seated at their ease, may glide along,
54 Loch Lomond's fair and fairy Isles among;
55 Where bushy promontories fondly peep
56 At their own beauty in the nether deep,
57 O'er drooping birch and rowen red that lave
58 Their fragrant branches in the glassy wave:
59 They who on higher objects scarce have counted
60 Than church-spire with its gilded vane surmounted,
61 May view within their near, distinctive ken
62 The rocky summits of the lofty Ben;
63 Or see his purple shoulders darkly lower
64 Through the dim drapery of a summer shower.
65 Where, spread in broad and fair expanse, the Clyde
66 Mingles his waters with the briny tide,
67 Along the lesser Cumra's rocky shore,
68 With moss and crusted lichens fleckered o'er,
69 He who but warfare held with thievish cat,
70 Or from his cupboard chaced a hungry rat,
71 The city cobbler, scares the wild sea-mew
72 In its mid-flight with loud and shrill halloo;
[Page 252]
73 Or valiantly with fearful threatening shakes
74 His lank and greasy head at Kittywakes.
* The common or vulgar name of a bird frequenting that coast.
75 The eyes that have no fairer outline seen,
76 Than chimneyed walls with slated roofs between,
77 Which hard and harshly edge the smoky sky,
78 May Aron's softly-visioned peaks descry,
79 Coping with graceful state her steepy sides
80 O'er which the cloud's broad shadow swiftly glides,
81 And interlacing slopes that gently merge
82 Into the pearly mist of ocean's verge.
83 Eyes which admired that work of sordid skill,
84 The storied structure of a cotton mill,
85 May wondering now behold the unnumbered host
86 Of marshalled pillars on fair Ireland's coast,
87 Phalanx on phalanx ranged with sidelong bend
88 Or broken ranks that to the main descend,
89 Like Pharaoh's army on the Red Sea shore,
90 Who deep and deeper sunk, to rise no more.
91 Yet ne'ertheless, whate'er we owe to thee,
92 Rover at will on river, lake, and sea,
[Page 253]
93 As profit's bait or pleasure's lure engage,
94 Offspring of Watt, that philosophic sage,
95 Who in the heraldry of science ranks
96 With those to whom men owe high meed of thanks
97 For genius usefully employed, whose fame
98 Shall still be linked with Davy's splendid name!
99 Dearer to fancy, to the eye more fair
100 Are the light skiffs, that to the breezy air
101 Unfurl their swelling sails of snowy hue
102 Upon the moving lap of ocean blue:
103 As the proud swan on summer lake displays,
104 With plumage brightening in the morning rays,
105 Her fair pavilion of erected wings,
106 They change and veer and turn like living things.
107 With ample store of shrouding, sails and mast
108 To brave with manly skill the winter blast
109 Of every clime, in vessels rigged like these
110 Did great Columbus cross the western seas,
111 And to the stinted thoughts of man revealed
112 What yet the course of ages had concealed:
[Page 254]
113 In such as these, on high adventure bent
114 Round the vast world Magellan's comrades went.
115 To such as these are hardy seamen found
116 As with the ties of kindred feeling bound,
117 Boasting, while cans of cheering grog they sip,
118 The varied fortunes of "our gallant ship:"
119 The offspring these of bold sagacious man,
120 Ere yet the reign of lettered lore began.
121 In very truth, compared to these, thou art
122 A daily labourer, a mechanic swart,
123 In working weeds arrayed of homely grey,
124 Opposed to gentle nymph or lady gay,
125 To whose free robes the graceful right is given
126 To play and dally with the winds of heaven.
127 Beholding thee, the great of other days
128 And modern men with all their altered ways,
129 Across my mind with hasty transit gleam,
130 Like fleeting shadows of a feverish dream:
131 Fitful I gaze, with adverse humours teased,
132 Half sad, half proud, half angry, and half pleased.


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Title (in Source Edition): ADDRESS TO A STEAM VESSEL.
Genres: occasional poem; address

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Baillie, Joanna, 1762-1851. Fugitive Verses. By Joanna Baillie, author of “Dramas on the Passions,“ etc. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street. MDCCCXL., 1840, pp. 248-254.  (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [40.17].)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Other works by Joanna Baillie