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The Swan Song Of Parson Avery
by [?]

In Young’s Chronicles of Massachusetts Bay front 1623 to 1636 may be found Anthony Thacher’s Narrative of his Shipwreck. Thacher was Avery’s companion and survived to tell the tale. Mather’s Magnalia, III. 2, gives further Particulars of Parson Avery’s End, and suggests the title of the poem.

WHEN the reaper’s task was ended, and the
summer wearing late,
Parson Avery sailed from Newbury, with his wife
and children eight,
Dropping down the river-harbor in the shallop
“Watch and Wait.”

Pleasantly lay the clearings in the mellow summer-
With the newly planted orchards dropping their
fruits first-born,
And the home-roofs like brown islands amid a sea
of corn.

Broad meadows reached out ‘seaward the tided
creeks between,
And hills rolled wave-like inland, with oaks and
walnuts green;–
A fairer home, a–goodlier land, his eyes had never

Yet away sailed Parson Avery, away where duty led,
And the voice of God seemed calling, to break the
living bread
To the souls of fishers starving on the rocks of

All day they sailed: at nightfall the pleasant land-
breeze died,
The blackening sky, at midnight, its starry lights
And far and low the thunder of tempest prophesied.

Blotted out were all the coast-lines, gone were rock,
and wood, and sand;
Grimly anxious stood the skipper with the rudder
in his hand,
And questioned of the darkness what was sea and
what was land.

And the preacher heard his dear ones, nestled
round him, weeping sore,
“Never heed, my little children! Christ is walking
on before;
To the pleasant land of heaven, where the sea shall
be no more.”

All at once the great cloud parted, like a curtain
drawn aside,
To let down the torch of lightning on the terror
far and wide;
And the thunder and the whirlwind together smote
the tide.

There was wailing in the shallop, woman’s wail
and man’s despair,
A crash of breaking timbers on the rocks so sharp
and bare,
And, through it all, the murmur of Father Avery’s

From his struggle in the darkness with the wild
waves and the blast,
On a rock, where every billow broke above him as
it passed,
Alone, of all his household, the man of God was

There a comrade heard him praying, in the pause
of wave and wind
“All my own have gone before me, and I linger
just behind;
Not for life I ask, but only for the rest Thy
ransomed find!

“In this night of death I challenge the promise of
Thy word!–
Let me see the great salvation of which mine ears
have heard!–
Let me pass from hence forgiven, through the
grace of Christ, our Lord!

“In the baptism of these waters wash white my
every sin,
And let me follow up to Thee my household and
my kin!
Open the sea-gate of Thy heaven, and let me enter

When the Christian sings his death-song, all the
listening heavens draw near,
And the angels, leaning over the walls of crystal,
How the notes so faint and broken swell to music
in God’s ear.

The ear of God was open to His servant’s last
As the strong wave swept him downward the sweet
hymn upward pressed,
And the soul of Father Avery went, singing, to its

There was wailing on the mainland, from the rocks
of Marblehead;
In the stricken church of Newbury the notes of
prayer were read;
And long, by board and hearthstone, the living
mourned the dead.

And still the fishers outbound, or scudding from
the squall,
With grave and reverent faces, the ancient tale
When they see the white waves breaking on the
Rock of Avery’s Fall!