Tabb’s Poetry XXXIX


The Lost Anchor

Ah, sweet it was to feel the strain,
   What time, unseen, the ship above
   Stood steadfast to the storm that strove
To rend our kindred cords atwain!

To feel, as feel the roots that grow
   In darkness, when the stately tree
   Resists the tempests, that in me
High Hope was planted far below!

But now, as when a mother’s breast
   Misses the babe, my prisoned power
   Deep-yearning, heart-like, hour by hour,
Unquiet aches in cankering rest.


My soul is as a fainting noonday star,
   And thou, the absent night;
Haste, that thy healing shadow from afar
   May touch me into light.


Within the compass of mine eyes
Behold, a lordly city lies—
   A world to me unknown,
Save that along its crowded ways
Moves one whose heart in other days
   Was mated to mine own.

I ask no more; enough for me
One heaven above us both to see,
   One calm horizon-line
Around us, like a mystic ring
That Love has set, encompassing
   That kindred life and mine.

The Captives

Apart forever dwelt the twain,
Save for one oft-repeated strain
Wherein what love alone could say
They learned and lavished day by day.

Strangers in all but misery
And music’s hope-sustaining tie,
They lived and loved and died apart,
But soul to soul and heart to heart.


Henceforth alone to bear
The cross thou canst not share
   Is sweet to me;
For ’twas the heavier part
That lay upon thy heart
   Which now is free.

John B. Tabb

For a recitation, click the play button:

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“The Lost Anchor”: Lyrics, p. 43; Poetry, p. 247. 1897. What time means when. Atwain means into two or apart. Cankering means corrupting or corroding. An experience during Father Tabb’s days as a blockade runner, on the ship Robert E. Lee leaving Charleston, suggested this poem to him many years later.

“O’erspent”: Poems, p. 130; Poetry, p. 352. 1894.

“Cloistered”: Poems, p. 16; Poetry, p. 260. September 1893. Cloistered: enclosed or sequestered; a cloister is a place of religious seclusion, especially a convent or monastery, or some enclosed area in either.

“The Captives”: Poems, p. 29; Poetry, p. 261. April 7, 1893. Twain means two. Father Tabb met the future fellow-poet Sidney Lanier while both were interred in a Union prisoner-of-war camp, Bull Pen, at Point Lookout, Maryland. Father Tabb had heard Lanier’s flute before he met the player, which suggested this poem to him.

“Consolation”: Later Poems, p. 67; Poetry, p. 249. 1910.


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