The Stormy Petrel Song. Performed by Eileen Richardson and used with permission.
The Stormy Petrel – From a Newspaper Cutting (Letter to the newspaper)
The Stormy Petrel
In response to a request by J.W., Sunderland, I forward the poem by J. P. Robson entitled The Stormy Petrel. It is inscribed to Mr. Joseph Hodgson, the “Life Preserver of Sunderland”. Of Mr. Hodgson I may say that he saved numerous lives from drowning, and he was awarded several gold and silber medals for courage and humanity. Among these was a gold medal from Louis Napoleon, Emperor of the French, for saving the master and crew of the “Trois Soeurs”. The poem alludes particularly to this circumstance.
Help! help!” Alas there is no help!
The ship is rent asunder;
The lightning of the fiend has flashed.
He laughs and rolls his thunder!
Rockets, in vain, whiz through the gloom,
One moment ‘tis too late!
The struggling brave are in the wave,
The victims to stern fate.
See! See! A human form appears,
The messenger of hope,
Mounting the mad, careering surge,
He bears salvation’s rope.
The Petrel spreads his sweeping wings,
He nears the stranded barque;
The spray dashed o’er his gallant head,
A rainbow o’er the ark.
“Help! help! oh, help!” “There cometh help!
Bear up my trusty men;
Here clutch this rope! hold on my braves!
There’s life for ye again!”
Oh, that glad cry of gratitude
Exalts the Petrel’s form,
Salvation’s cable is made fast,
There’s mercy in the storm.
Men, captain, boy, with tears of joy,
Along the line move fast,
Till every soul, mid ocean’s roll,
Hath gained the shore at last.
“Hurrah! hurrah!” The Storm-Fiend glares
In disappointed wrath;
The dripping crew have all escaped
The tempest’s horrid scath.
Dark roll the eddying clouds above
Like mountains o’er the deep,
Like lions wild with manes of foam,
The crowding billows sweep.
The spume of vengeance on their lips,
In thunder’s voice they roar;
As the hurricane howls fearfully
And rainy torrents pour.
A gallant vessel struggling heaves,
Like a wrestler ‘gainst his doom,
Now skyward hurled in vengeful night
Now downward dashed in gloom.
The captain bold, and seamen brave,
Await the impending shock,
With hearts that scorn all quailing fear,
Through hurrying to the rock!
All that the skill of man can do,
Or prowess e’er perform,
Seems but an infant’s feeble hand
Against the giant storm.
Vainly the lifeboat mounts the surge,
The sinking ship to gain;
She strikes! her masts, like some frail reeds
Float useless on the main.