Back to Ballad Poems | Back to Main Page 

"The Omen"

by Elizabeth Santos from Pottstown, PA


From pulpit's ship he preached in scrimshaw days
And belted out a prayer of hope and praise
The seamen clung to every fervid phrase
Then left New Bedford's dock in morning haze

It was the eve of his first bounty search
A young lad prayed in Seaman's Bethel Church
And as he left he saw a raven perch
A haunting omen on a limb of birch

But nothing now could stop this seabound youth
Son of a whaler, seeking trophy tooth
His father always told him that the truth
Would be discovered in the prime of youth

He knew that schooner, "Anna", stem to stern
The Captain said, "Your dues you gotta earn
The first time out you've got a lot to learn
And fightin' with this crew ain't my concern"

They were a mixed lot, anyone could tell
Some from Cape Verde, some right out of hell
But each one did his job and did it well
And Billy Boy, he held them in his spell

An image of his father, they all said
A favorite whaling captain now was dead
But they could see the lad was schooner bred
And in his eyes his father's wisdom read

Young Billy boy had whaling in his vein
And would add honor to his father's name
And so he set out on a search for fame
But never would his spirit be the same

Four days a'sail and nothing came in sight
Then in the middle of the darkest night
The Captain had a sense of dooming fright
There's something in the air that didn't seem right

No sooner said , the sea began to churn
"We've not a single moment left to burn"
The waves were wildly crashing on the stern
And Billy's heart was full of seaman's yearn

"Put this ship in irons, seamen, douse her sails!
Head staight into the eye of the wind and hail!"
The schooner pitched for hours in the gale
The crew controlling helm and tethered sail

But some were thrown into the ocean's cold
By force of waves above the bulkward's hold
The ship was yawing, all those strong and bold
Couldn't turn about the whaling ship of gold

"Secure the boom, young lad!", the Captain cried
But Bill Boy was stunned with what he spied
A huge blue whale abrest the starboard side
Was staring at young Billy eye to eye

"A whale!, A whale!", cried son of schooner's fame
The Captain shouted, "Make yourself a name!
Harpoon him, lad!, Harpoon him from the main
Just this one, and we'll head home again!"

"No! No!, my Captain, look how he behaves
Keeping us from rolling with the waves
He is a friend, I say, let him be saved
Or "Anna", here, will send us to our graves"

"This whale, my boy, will be our certain doom
It's either us or he to be consumed
Now hold on boy and pitch that old harpoon
And you will sup next week with silver spoon"

Billy took the spear and held it high
And looked into the depths of mammal's eye
But could not bear the anguished hurt inside
And dropped the harpoon by the Captain's side

"'Tis I ,young man, who'll teach you how to throw
Your father's glory you will never know"
And as he raised his arms to deal the blow
The whale dove to the calmer depths below

And as it did the schooner overturned
The few on board fell in the icy churn
The harpoon followed swiftly from the stern
And Captain had a whaler's table turned

Until this day they tell the fateful tale
Of "Anna"'s disappearance in the gale
And Billy who was pushed atop a bale
And pulled to safety by a monster whale

In Seaman's Bethel Church Still William prays
Remembering the raven's piercing gaze
An omen from his father to pursuade
His son from following the whaler's ways

All was written in a blue whale's eye
Instead of seeing lamp oil to be burned
Billy saw the creature dignify
The truth his father wanted him to learn


Top | Back to Ballad Poems | Back to Main Page