O, what is that whimpering there in the darkness?
‘Let him lie in my arms. He is breathing, I know.
Look. I’ll wrap all my hair round his neck’ – ‘The sea’s rising,
The boat must be lightened. He’s dead. He must go.’
See – quick – by that flash, where the bitter foam tosses,
The cloud of white faces, in the black open boat,
And the wild pleading woman that clasps her dead lover
And wraps her loose hair round his breast and his throat.
‘Come, lady, he’s dead.’ – ‘No, I feel his heart beating,
He’s living, I know. But he’s numbed with the cold.
See, I’m wrapping my hair all around him to warm him.’ –
– ‘No. We can’t keep the dead, dear. Come, loosen your hold.
‘Come. Loosen your fingers.’ – ‘ O God, let me keep him!’ –
O, hide it, black night! Let the winds have their way!
And there are no voices or ghosts from that darkness,
To fret the bare seas at the breaking of day.
Alfred Noyes an English poet, short-story writer and playwright, best known for his ballads, “The Highwayman” and “The Barrel-Organ”. Noyes’ last poem, Ballade of the Breaking Shell, was written in May 1958, one month before his death. He died at the age of 77, and is buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Freshwater, Isle of Wight.