Written by Wilbert Snow, this lovely six-page poem is the second found in Maine Coast. The first few stanzas are provided for readers who may wish to read his sea-related poetry in entirety.
From Sweden forty years ago he came
And settled in our village on the coast
And cast his lot as one of us — a man
Who loved the sea as those alone can love her
Who childhood longings have been stirred to life
In words made music by her might voice,
Engraving records on the soul of youth.
I never knew a man who loved the sea
As Olaf loved her; seasons out of mind
In boyhood days have I beheld him loaf
The mooring through, beside a shelving rock
In a little yellow dory, his right hand
Aclasp two eight-foot oars, a black clay pipe
Between his teeth; loaf long and long, and watch
The dark brown rockweed rise and fall, and rise,
With motion not quite regular; watch, too,
The smoky-colored periwinkles cling,
Or zigzag through the green two fathoms down
And nestle on the bottom strewn with kelp,
And soggy wood, and star-fish pink and white;
Or take a listening mood and hold his breath
To hear the barnacles along the rocks
Disturb the silence of that quiet cove
With little seething, whispering monotones
That are, to stormy poundings of the bay,
As chirrupings of song birds in the trees
To midnight forests crashing loud with storm.
I heeded in his steady of eyes of gray
A glassy token which the old gray mother,
To mark him for her own, had spread about
His seaward-gazing countenance — a look
Found nowhere but in men who breast strong tides.
He seemed as much a part of that small cove
As did the crying sea gulls on the bar.
He drifted at the ebbing of each tide
Our over eel-grass to his cherished weir,
Between the island and the harbor’s mouth,
And climbed the stakes to look for schools of herring.
For twenty years expectantly he pulled
His wherry to the weir and back again;
For twenty years he though about the tides
And dreamed about the mystery of skies
And sunsets played around his wrinkled cheeks
And lit them as they lit the rolling calm
Of waters stretching out to evening sea.
In the first stanza, Snow has set the stage in time and location, relying on familiar terms to impart indelibility of sea-life and love in three lines. The poem recounts Olaf’s struggled accomplishments as a Maine immigrant-waterman and is well-worth reading.