Frances E. W. Harper
Onward to her destination,
O'er the stream the Hannah sped,
When a cry of consternation
Smote and chilled our hearts with dread.
Wildly leaping, madly sweeping,
All relentless in their sway,
Like a band of cruel demons
Flames were closing 'round our way
Oh! the horror of those moments;
Flames above and waves below--
Oh! the agony of ages
Crowded in one hour of woe.
Fainter grew our hearts with anguish
In that hour with peril rife,
When we saw the pilot flying,
Terror-stricken, for his life.
Then a man uprose before us--
We had once despised his race--
But we saw a lofty purpose
Lighting up his darkened face.
While the flames were madly roaring,
With a courage grand and high,
Forth he rushed unto our rescue,
Strong to suffer, brave to die.
Helplessly the boat was drifting,
Death was staring in each face,
When he grasped the fallen rudder,
Took the pilot's vacant place.
Could he save us? Would he save us?
All his hope of life give o'er?
Could he hold that fated vessel
'Till she reached the nearer shore?
All our hopes and fears were centered
'Round his strong, unfaltering hand;
If he failed us we must perish,
Perish just in sight of land.
Breathlessly we watched and waited
While the flames were raging fast;
When our anguish changed to rapture--
We were saved, yes, saved at last.
Never strains of sweetest music
Brought to us more welcome sound
Than the grating of that steamer
When her keel had touched the ground.
But our faithful martyr hero
Through a fiery pathway trod,
Till he laid his valiant spirit
On the bosom of his God.
Fame has never crowned a hero
On the crimson fields of strife,
Grander, nobler, than that pilot
Yielding up for us his life.