Outside the Bar

Editorial Note: ”Bar” refers to “a bank of sand, silt, etc., across the mouth of a river or harbour, which obstructs navigation” (OED 15a).

Outside the Bar, amid the breaking surges,
        By mighty winds capriciously misled;
Toy of the tempest-god who madly urges
        The ship towards yon reef that lies ahead;
Beset by Night, whose darkling clouds are driven
        Across a sky that shows no friendly star,
With rudder broken, and with canvas riven,
        How will she reach her goal within the Bar?

Outside the Bar, like some great soul in sorrow,
        The labouring barque bemoans the bitter hour;
And her brave crew, with longings for the morrow,
        Toil through the night against the tempest’s power.
Ah! can she conquer when each giant billow
        Has roused itself man’s handiwork to mar?
Their angry crests afford no restful pillow
        To one who longs for peace within the Bar.

Outside the Bar the storm-fiends, wildly mocking
        At human weakness, rave in accents rude;
While in their ruthless grasp the ship is rocking,
        A prey to every demon’s changeful mood.
The way to port is through those breakers standing
        Like foeman-sentinels in time of war,
Their iron-clad and hostile forms commanding
        The haven of her hopes within the Bar.

Outside the Bar the ocean-voices thunder,
        And Night bends over all her deathly frown:
Within the Bar some tender hearts do wonder
        If ships will find their refuge near the town.
Now, for the sake of those our spirits cherish,
        Who toss upon tempestuous seas afar,
Pray that the barque beleaguered may not perish,
        But anchor safely yet within the Bar.

Source: Chambers Edinburgh Journal 19.961 (27 May 1882): 344.
(Available in ProQuest database)


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