Monday, May 14, 2012

The Wreck of Herperus

     The wreck of Hesperus is an enchanting 19th century poem written by a man who never experienced anything out of the ordinary during his childhood. More or less. While Henry Wadsworth Longfellow grew up in an 1800’s fishing town, he was no ordinary fisherman. Remembering a story from his early years of a ship that had recently wrecked due to a hurricane, Longfellow withdrew expertly composed lyrics to his poem “The Wreck of Hesperus”. Still today Longfellow is widely known for his famous poems.  
     The characters involved in this story are the Skipper, and his beautiful daughter of whom the story is primarily focused. The image Longfellow portrays the skipper as is the veteran. He’s been through so many wars and sailed so many ships and has so many stories it’s not even funny. He seems quite proud and never turns back from an adventure. While his daughter, on the other hand, is the cute little girl all grown up who has obviously never been on a trip across the ocean and probably has never even stepped foot on a boat since - ever. Spending days, weeks, months waiting for her father to return from his most recent voyage was probably how she spent her childhood. Meanwhile, her mother always profited from her husband’s trade and made sure that her precious daughter had everything a 19th century girl could dream of. Dolls, dresses, and dances were provided all throughout her early years. Dashingly beautiful, this girl was the prize of the small town and the pride and joy of her parents. Finally, the tough skipper decided that his daughter aught to come along with him on the next short voyage. This was unusual. Unsure, the daughter agrees to travel with him on the adventure, shouts a loving farewell to her mother, and sets off to Take Your Daughter To Work Day.
     After casually traveling for a few days, the crew is getting ready to return home. “How have you enjoyed the trip?” the skipper asks his daughter. The daughter replies that she has liked the trip fondly and that she is proud of all the hard work he has done to provide for his family all these years. Suddenly, a sailor shouts something from the crow’s nest. Fearing there is a hurricane in the distance, he pleads with the skipper to turn to the nearest dock, where they might rest and wait out the huge storm. Prompted by the presence of his daughter, and wanting to prove his skill out at the open sea in front of his audience of one, the skipper decides to continue through the storm. At this,
the daughter begins to worry. She too questions her father if he is making the right decision. "Of course," he replies, "I've sailed through many a storm greater than this puny sprinkler system.” Although the skipper is sure the storm is no problem, it eventually reaches them, causing the ship to raise and drop like a roller coaster. The daughter, who is now terrified, is scrambling from one side of the ship to the other, trying desperately to keep her balance, tumbling too and fro across the deck all the while dodging objects on the soaked wooden floor. Seeing that the storm is much more brutal than he expected, our skipper begins to panic. Assuring his baby girl that everything will be fine, he binds her to the mast to keep her from sliding off the edge of the boat. Then disaster strikes.
     Through the wind and the waves the skipper plummets to the bottom of deep ocean, never to be seen again, and leaving his daughter defenselessly tied to a mast. Desperately, hour after hour, the daughter yells for someone to untie her, but no one notices her in the dark, cold, isolated weather conditions. One by one, sailor after sailor, the ocean, which is not cooperating anytime soon, claims more lives. Soon, the daughter is out on the open ocean, alone, and stuck to a giant post, hoping that Jesus would calm the storm as He did at the Sea of Galilee, but the waters continue to pound against the boat. As one last enormous wave towers over the ship, the daughter closes her eyes, and feels the cool liquids captivate her. The following morning, as a fisherman walks his everyday path to the docks, he spots a wrecked ship on the rocky shore. Racing to reach any possible survivors, he finds no one on the boat. As he steps off onto the shore, something catches his eye. He runs to the mast. A woman. A young woman. Tied to the mast in an effort to save her life. A beautiful girl, with water still frozen onto her pale face.
     Obviously, this was not meant to be a heart-warming, family friendly, poem of the year. Never the less, Longfellow undoubtedly proves his power of paper all throughout the lines. Despite the tragic ending, this was written from a true story, and absolutely had no option otherwise when it came to resolutions. Had Longfellow changed the ending, the story would be gone. Stylistically speaking, the language is captivating, the story is intriguing, and the characters lost are loved as they fall.

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