The Dead Stranger (Maurice A Devine)

Out on the beach at Seal Cove,
under the foaming cliff,
Beside the line of the topmost wave
the corpse lay cold and stiff;
Scratched and bruised and swollen,
tossed by the rock and the wave,
Driven by God to our rocky shore
to seek an earthly grave.

One scanty undergarment -
a pair of woollen socks -
The only covering left there
from cruel grinding rocks;
No tale is told by the Indian ink
stamped on the bosom bare;
No tale is told by the seaweed brown
entwined in the flaxen hair.

Whence have you come, oh stranger,
over the watery main?
And where is the home of your dear ones
you never can see again?
Is it mid the sunny southern palms,
or where the north winds blow;
Is it in the city's crowded streets,
or where the cornfields grow?

Did you speak the pathos of the French,
or Anglo-Saxon tongue,
In the soft language of the south
were the songs of your cradle sung?
Methinks the stamp Teutonic
is branded on that form,
And for the honored fatherland
your blood coursed free and warm.

Mayhap in a pleasant hamlet
beside the silver Rhine,
The emerald sod at first was trod
by those torn feet of thine;
Where have those bruised feet wandered,
where have you roamed since then,
Into the hurly-burly,
into the haunts of men.

Struggling, striving, longing,
filled with the feverish strife,
To battle with your fellow-man
the rugged road of life;
Sailing in storm and sunshine
over the trackless wave,
But here your toil is ended,
you come to seek a grave.

Did you ever dream in your golden dreams
that here on a foreign strand,
Your corpse would beg a hiding-place
in the soil of a stranger's land?
Ah, no! Your dreams were brighter,
you pictured a pleasant home,
With loved ones gathered 'round you
when you had ceased to roam.

Free from the storm and turmoil,
a haven of earthly bliss,
Alas! How many mundane dreams
are rudely dashed like this;
But what of the weary watcher
gazing across the main,
The sad-eyed mother with pensive face
pressed to the window pane.

Does she start in the stormy midnight
and list to the wind and rain,
And breathe a prayer for her absent boy
that's sailing o'er the main;
Ah! tearful, watching mother,
our thoughts speed o'er the brine,
We join thee in thy vigil lone
and mingle our tears with thine.

On the brown hill side, in our rugged soil,
sleeps on your pride, your joy,
He's coffined in a canvas sheet,
meet shroud for a sailor boy;
And little he recks the storm tossed surf
that tumbles upon the shore,
Till he joins again with his loved friends
to meet and part no more.

####.... Maurice A Devine [1859-1915] of Kings Cove, Bonavista Bay, NL ....####
See more songs by the Devines

This variant was printed in St John's in 1905 on pp.16-18 of Murphy's Sealers' Song Book published by James Murphy [1867-1931].

From James Murphy's Publisher's Notes:
The body of an unknown stranger was cast ashore by the sea some years ago at Seal Cove, Renews. It was beyond identification in every respect. It was rolled up in a sail and buried by the people. It was all they could do under the circumstances. M A Devine, editor of the Trade Review, is the author.

Seal Cove is located near Renews-Cappahayden, a small fishing town on the southeastern shore of Newfoundland, 83 kilometres (52 miles) south of St John's. The town was incorporated in the mid-1960s by amalgamating the formerly independent villages of Renews and Cappahayden. Renews-Cappahayden had a population of 421 in the Canada 2006 Census.

From Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Hurly-Burly - uproar, tumult, ruckus, hoopla.
Meet ³ - precisely adapted to a particular situation, need or circumstance; very proper.
Recks - worries over; cares about.


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