Ballads of Lost Haven: A Book of the Sea

by Bliss Carman


 

ARNOLD, MASTER OF THE SCUD


 

THERE’S a schooner out from Kingsport,
Through the morning’s dazzle-gleam,
Snoring down the Bay of Fundy
With a norther on her beam.

How the tough wind springs to wrestle,

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When the tide is on the flood!
And between them stands young daring—
Arnold, master of the Scud.

He is only "Martin’s youngster,"
To the Minas coasting fleet,

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"Twelve year old, and full of Satan
As a nut is full of meat.

"With a wake of froth behind him,
And the gold green waste before,
Just as though the sea this morning

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Were his boat pond by the door,

Legs a-straddle, grips the tiller
This young waif of the old sea;
When the wind comes harder, only
Laughs "Hurrah!" and holds her free.

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Little wonder, as you watch him
With the dash in his blue eye,
Long ago his father called him
"Arnold, Master," on the sly,

While his mother’s heart foreboded

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Reckless father makes rash son.
So to-day the schooner carries
Just these two whose will is one.

Now the wind grows moody, shifting
Point by point into the east.

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Wing and wing the Scud is flying
With her scuppers full of yeast.

And the father’s older wisdom
On the sea-line has descried,
Like a stealthy cloud-bank making

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Up to windward with the tide,

Those tall navies of disaster,
The pale squadrons of the fog,
That maraud this gray world border
Without pilot, chart, or log,

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Ranging wanton as marooners
From Minudie to Manan.
"Heave to, and we’ll reef, my master!"
Cries he; when no will of man

Spills the foresail, but a clumsy

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Wind-flaw with a hand like stone
Hurls the boom round. In an instant
Arnold, Master, there alone

Sees a crushed corpse shot to seaward,
With the gray doom in its face;

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And the climbing foam receives it
To its everlasting place.

What does Arnold, Master, think you?
Whimper like a child for dread?
That’s not Arnold. Foulest weather

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Strongest sailors ever bred.

And this slip of taut sea-faring
Grows a man who throttles fear.
Let the storm and dark in spite now
Do their worst with valor here!

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Not a reef and not a shiver,
While the wind jeers in her shrouds,
And the flauts of foam and sea-fog
Swarm upon her deck in crowds,

Flies the Scud like a mad racer;

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And with iron in his frown,
Holding hard by wrath and dreadnought,
Arnold, Master, rides her down.

Let the taffrail shriek through foam-heads!
Let the licking seas go glut

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Elsewhere their old hunger, baffled!
Arnold’s making for the Gut.

Cleft sheer down, the sea-wall mountains
Give that one port on the coast;
Made, the Basin lies in sunshine!

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Missed, the little Scud is lost!

Come now, fog-horn, let your warning
Rip the wind to starboard there!
Suddenly that burly-throated
Welcome ploughs the cumbered air.

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The young master hauls a little,
Crowds her up and sheets her home,
Heading for the narrow entry
Whence the safety signals come.

Then the wind lulls, and an eddy

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Tells of ledges, where away;
Veers the Scud, sheet free, sun breaking,
Through the rifts, and—there’s the bay!

Like a bird in from the storm-beat,
As the summer sun goes down,

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Slows the schooner to her moorings
By the wharf at Digby town.

All the world next morning wondered.
Largest letters, there it stood,
"Storm in Fundy. A Boy’s Daring.

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Arnold, Master of the Scud."