Crossing the Atlantic Ocean
In January, Fifty-three, we left our English home,
Determined, for the Gospel's sake, to Zion's land to come.
Our family was very small, its members numbered three,
Yet strong in faith of Israel's God, and full of hope were we.
'Twas not to us an easy task to bid old friends adieu,
To take a long farewell of those who always had been true,
To leave for aye, the cozy home we made but just before,
And take a last fond look of things we should behold no more;
The wind blew keen, as out we went into the cold gray dawn,
But keener far the chill we felt within our hearts that morn.
The stars were shining over us, but brighter in our breast
Was the star of hope that 'lured us on to the distant West. [p.65]
But if our hearts were sore and sad, as through those streets we went,
To leave the land that gave us birth, was still our firm intent;
For in the soul's deep recess, we heard the spirit call
"Come ye out of Babylon, lest share ye in her sure fall."
We reached the station, took the train, and (shall I own it) wept
As we left behind that city which still in darkness slept.
The good train bore us safely on, no accident befell,
That night we spent in Liverpool at a Temperance hotel;
Next morn we heard to our delight, that just the day before,
A company from Utah had landed on our shore,
And we hailed with joy not easy told, a missionary band
Of elders, who had come to preach the Gospel in that land.
We breakfasted together, tried each other's hearts to cheer,
Talked freely of the distant land, so distant, yet so dear;
They blessed us with their cheering words, from them we comfort drew,
If they had braved the stormy sea, could we not brave it too?
If they had safely crossed the plains, the inference was clear
That we might also cross them, nor the cruel Indian fear.
We parted from the elders, they to their labors sent
And we to engage our places, within the vessel went.
Securely moored beside the wharf, our chartered vessel lay, [p.66]
And soon our little earthly all was safely stowed away.
Ellen Maria, the vessel's name, she'd carried Saints before,
And we were told the master there, was Captain George Whitmore.
It being yet a week or so before she put to sea,
To spend the time as best we could, at liberty we'd be;
The vessel thence would be our home, at night we slept on board,
By day we sought amusement which the city could afford.
Saints met us here, who like ourselves, to Utah meant to go,
In whose society the hours flew fast and pleasant too,
And ere we thought the word was given, that all on board must be,
The ropes were loosed, the sails were spread, and we put out to sea.
E'en now, tho' twenty years have past, I live that time again,
But how describe the sounds that rose, of mingled joy and pain,
While we our voices joined to bid our native land farewell
Which told that we were going to another land to dwell?
And while we sang, a loud sad cry above the music went,
Followed by sobs and wailing moans of terrible lament;
For it was then we learned, what before we did not know,
That a few Irish emigrants were in the hold below.
Their country! oh, their dear loved isle! so touching was their grief [p.67]
That many heats 'till then quite brave, in tears now found relief.
Alas! the time was very short that we could spend in woe,
For as the vessel started, we had something else to do.
The sobs and cries, and outward signs of grief soon passed away,
And like a suffering, weary child, within our berths we lay.
Three hundred and sixty-three, I believe our numbers were,
And of that number, very few did not seasickness share.
The memory of those dreadful days and what we suffered then,
Is fresh and vivid in my mind, but far beyond my pen.
Thanks to the Lord, my husband not a touch of sickness knew,
But with sufferers all around, found work enough to do.
Nine days and nights the wind blew strong, the sea was very rough,
The vessel rocked, loose boxes flew, and tins made noise enough;
We could not sleep through all that time, for clatter night and day,
Still in the Irish Channel, 'mid surging foam and spray.
At length we think of eating; our provision chest is stowed
With goodly things of all kinds, for medicine and food.
We opened this, with anxious hope, but oh! alas! alas!
I never, never can describe the heterogeneous mass.
Oranges, pickles, arrowroot, preserves, potatoes, jam,
Apples, brandy, mustard, rhubarb, and boiled ham, [p.68]
Mashed and mixed together, as if the only object were
To find how much destruction, could be effected there.
This discovery is a trying and a saddening one to us,
But outside, and around things are indescribably worse;
One of the men, the sailors say, from the topmost rigging falls,
We heard the crash, the awful thud, which every heart appalls.
Some of our brethren, tenderly, take up the mangled form,
And, with the captain's free consent, our sacred rites perform;
The healing power is manifest, the sailor's life is spared
And through his lingering sickness, for his wants our brethren cared.
In that dread time, a babe was born, yet scarcely drew its breath
Ere the mother with her darling, lay in the arms of death
Death! ah, what a feeling with this word ne'er fails to come!
And if on land, among loving friends, within the quiet home
'Tis an unwelcome visitor, how much more so at sea,
With lack of all that mitigates it sad austerity;
On land, our dead in holy consecrated ground are laid,
By loving tender hands and hearts, the last sad tribute's paid.
We touch the dead with tenderness, as tho' they could feel pain,
And venerate the senseless form, now all that does remain,
At sea this feeling is perhaps more deep and more intense; [p.69]
For there the mode of burial is different, the sense,
The feelings, all are wrung. The forms before us now
Are dressed with all the gentleness, the billows will allow.
The infant laid, as if asleep, upon its mother's breast,-
But oh! my heart is sick and sad, how can I tell the rest?
Canvas close around was sewed, then weighted at the feet,
The bodies on a board are placed; preparations are complete;
And the forms we loved and valued, alas! they soon must be
Committed to the merciless, the deep and yawning sea.
They now are borne upon the deck, with due solemnity
We follow them with feelings sad, the burial to see.
The dedicatory rites and prayer are by the Priesthood said,
And we proceed, with sorrow now, to bury these, our dead.
Reluctantly the board is raised across the vessel's side,
And being gently tilted, down the bodies swiftly slide
Into the open water; and now the rippling wave,
Receives them with a splash, then closes o'er their grave.
But there's comfort in the thought that God, our God, has said,
That yet the sea at his mandate, again will yield its dead;
And knowing that the God we serve, is truth, as well as love,
We bow to Him, who ruleth here, as in the realms above. [p.70]
Then in confidence to our Father, and to our God we prayed,
That our lives might still be spared, and the roaring winds be stayed.
Then He who holds the winds as in the hollow of His hand,
To stop their raging fury, now in mercy gave command.
"Be still!" is heard, the wind obeys, and heavy billows lower,
We see Omnipotence displayed and wonder at its power.
We view the broad Atlantic, smooth, placid, still and calm,
Its waves are sporting harmlessly and gentle as a lamb.
The respite is most welcome; those who can, now walk on deck,
And note with wondrous interest, each distant moving speck.
The sailors, busy round the ship, repairing break or rent,
Captain and mates their orders give, all seem on business bent.
We meet our fellow passengers, and for the first time speak
To some who on the deck appear, though looking low and weak.
New life and hope inspired our hearts, and drooping spirits buoy,
E'en the dumb fishes seemed to leap, and manifest their joy;
We see our Irish neighbors, who again have ventured out,
But seem to be regarding us with fear, distrust and doubt; [p.71]
They'd heard, of course, what dreadful folks these Mormon people are,
And so it would be just as well, of them to have a care.
Two girls among them differ, and soon grow free and chatty,
And told us of their brother, who lived in Cincinnati;
That he had sent some money, and that all his friends had come,
And now were on their way to make America their home.
We learned that they are very poor, allowances are bare.
But thanks to those who manage things, we've plenty and to spare.
We therefore help them what we can, and often are made glad,
To see the light of grateful joy, in eyes before so sad.
Peace on our vessel now prevails, order again restored,
The daily prayer and praise ascend, like incense to the Lord.
The stormy past is over, and it seems almost forgot,
The present with its duties, engrossed our every thought.
This life at sea; ah! who can tell its ever changing face?
Who from the mind the beauty of those sunset views can chase?
How describe the stars at night, reflected in the deep,
Or yet the holy wondrous spells that o'er the senses creep?
As easy could we count the sands that hold the mighty sea,
Or penetrate the mysteries of a vast eternity.
All things around us seemed to blend, on all is stamped sublime; [p.72]
As, in our thoughts we lift the veil, that shrouds the things of time.
That vessel was our little world, its inmates were a book,
And from it histories could be read in every word or look,
We saw, as in a daydream, its ever open page,
In those few, eventful weeks, which really seemed an age.
On, on, we go, forever on, yet never seem to speed,
For surely, if we go at all, it must be slow indeed.
Yet the sailor at the helm, says "we're moving fast and true,
"Ten knots an hour the vessel speeds;" and he's the one to know.
A young couple of our voyage, about this time decide,
To sail, henceforth, together, a life voyage, side by side,
Sunday dawns and on the deck we witness the marriage rite,
As the Priesthood, in holy bonds, this couple now unite.
We soon are conscious that we breath a warmer atmosphere,
A soft and balmy feeling comes, and other signs appear.
The monster whale, now daily seen, sends forth a cloud of foam,
And dolphins in their rainbow hues, quite near the vessel come.
The flying fish amuse us, as in shoals they fly or leap,
And seem at home in air above, or in the watery deep;
The nautilus spreads its little sail, and skims the briny wave,
In praise to the Creator, who their various instincts gave. [p.73]
While watching these, we seemed to lose the weary lassitude,
Which through the tedium of those days, would oftentimes intrude.
Two infant strangers came on board, a baby girl and boy,
Whose advent to our little world, made quite a stir of joy;
In compliment to the captain, the parents named their son, --
That boy and mother are alive, the girl and mother gone,
These only lived a few short days, and when we reached the bar,
With many tears of real grief, we left our sister there.
We're drawing near the islands now, and stormy winds prevail,
While sometimes in the distance, we descry a vessel's sail.
One now comes near, the captains through their speaking trumpets greet,
We learn that all are hungry, having nothing left to eat;
Our company has plenty, and is willing to divide.
The boats in haste are lowered, and are quickly brought 'long side,
She was from Charleston, outward bound, by storm had been delayed.
Provisions now were handed out; all hurry while she stayed;
The scene was novel, all on board felt truly thankful then,
That we could save from suffering, those need fellow men.
Just after this, I think it was, the discovery was made
That our frail bark had sprung a leak, and quick the tidings spread. [p.74]
Hours of intensely painful fear, and dread suspense ensue,
The men all labor at the pumps, the water to subdue.
Pale sad faces now are seen, e'en Charley, our merry cook,
Seems to have quite forgotten his accustomed laugh and joke.
The second mate looked in, with expression droll and sorry,
"Well never mind," said he, "we all are going to glory."
At length suspense is ended, we are told the danger's o'er,
While joy and gratitude prevail, where all was grief before.
Again come calm and quiet, a little breathing spell,
Ere of danger to our vessel, once more I have to tell;
I'm writing this from memory, o'er a lapse of twenty years
Of life's e'er changing phases, its mingled joys and tears;
Yet on memory's tablet they have been so firmly placed,
That reason must resign its throne, ere they could be erased.
Our vessel steers its course, near the Bahama Islands now,
The voyage, almost o'er, we're near the Gulf of Mexico;
And congratulate ourselves, while with hope each heart beats high,
Nor mark the distant storm clouds now gathering in the sky,
But those who guide the vessel can her fearful peril see,
A gale is coming; and she drives with strange velocity, [p.75]
Heedless of helm or sail, on towards a treacherous coast,
And, unless her course in changed, she will certainly be lost.
Oh, the fury of that storm! our ship will surely wreck,
The women are all kept inside, the men ordered up on deck,
We cannot see what's going on, but her the deafening din
Of fearful noises overhead, the screams and cries within.
Anchors overboard are cast, to stay her dangerous flight;
The peril is augmented by the darkness, for 'tis night;
The anchors' weight like feathers seems; still on the vessel goes,
For her keel's quite near the sand, as each anxious sounding shows;
We know that there is danger, yet there's potency in prayer.
And in this trying moment, ask our Heavenly Father's care;
Our spirits feel its soothing power, and patiently we wait,
The few brief moments, which we know must soon decide our fate.
The captain, for a moment, comes inside the cabin door,
And in his face we read a look we never saw before,
He gazes on the passengers, but utters not a word,
Yet plainly then we learn our fate, altho no sound is heard:
My husband now comes in; his face looks pale, but calm;
He sits down close beside me, takes our babe upon his arm; [p.76]
Then seeks, with tender loving words to know if I'm aware.
Unless Jehovah's power prevents, death must be very near.
We tell each other of our hope, beyond the reach of death,
Which will not fail us, even though we should resign our breath,
And though, perhaps, all human power is impotent to save.
Our trust is stayed on Him who can control the wind and wave.
The wind is hushed, the danger past, oh, how the tidings come,
To all who now expect to meet a sudden watery tomb!
Life comes to us instead of death; joy takes the place of grief,
But how describe the feeling of the wonderful relief?
The vessel righted, now her course again can be controlled,
And with the morning light the distant coast we can behold,
While now we shudder, as we think, what would have been our fate,
But for the interposing power, displayed for us of late.
We pass the islands near enough to see the huts on shore,
And the cook, with much importance, now tells us something more,
Assures us he is willing, on his Irish oath to swear,
That he can see the natives frying breakfast pancakes there.
We are talking now of the wonderful escape we've had, [p.77]
When the second mate, with his ever ready humor said,
"'Tis a good thing for us, that we'd a lot of Saints aboard,
Or we'd all now be in glory, if you'll believe my word."
All is plain sailing, soon we pass the Reefs of Florida,
And reach without more accident the often talked of "bar."
Here we must wait the length of time that often intervenes,
Before a steam tug comes to tow ships up to New Orleans.
We feel impatient, but must brook the tedious delay,
'Tis now the third of March; our child is one year old to-day.
Our life on sea is ended, but the danger is not o'er,
A mighty turbid river, with its perils, lies before.
As we cannot now move forward, we'll go back in thought, and view
The pleasing, painful incidents, we've recently passed through.
Six weeks since, we took leave of the English river Mersey,
We are now at the mouth of the famous Mississippi.
In the past six weeks we have crossed the waters which divide
Two mighty continents, and, thank God, are on the western side,
And so much nearer the dear home on which our hearts are set,
For Utah is our guiding star, our land of promise yet.
We sang the songs of Zion, as we crossed the briny deep,
In perils, sought God's care, who o'er His people watch does keep. [p.78]
Felt how very strong the bond that binds the Saints together,
Our faith, our hope the same, each is a friend or brother.
But all who started on this voyage, are not with us here,
The briny deep now rolls its waves o'er some who still are dear.
A little orphan girl, a kindly passing tribute claims,
Although unknown to me her history or her parent's names.
She passed away so gently, those around her only knew
Death's presence, by his impress stamped upon her pallid brow;
We could not weep, because we knew her spirit then had gone,
To enjoy a home prepared for her where sorrow could not come.
The casket, left behind, now 'neath the restless ocean sleeps,
Her ministering spirit, over it, unceasing watch still keeps
Until the time predicted, when the resurrecting word,
In the depth of ocean's bed, by the sleeper will be heard.
But the present calls us back, and forbids to linger more,
It has a scene as sad as that which was described before;
A sister now is dead; a loving wife and mother gone,
Her sun of life, alas! went down, before it yet was noon. [p.79]
The "tug" is here; farewell sea, we're starting up the river,
Goodbye, old Neptune, we leave your realms, perhaps forever.
We are on the Mississippi, how wonderful it seems,
And views of terra-firma now, unlike the poet's dreams;
How good the change of scene, and how welcome the sight of land,
With signs of life displayed around us on every hand.
How different the vessel's motion! she seems but just to glide
On these wondrous waters, unheeding either wind or tide,
O! this majestic feeling is really grand to me.
Who only knew such rivers as the Yare and Waveney,
The last named river was the idyl of my youthful days,
On its smooth surface, I have watched its ever winding ways,
Followed its quiet wanderings through meadows sweet with flowers,
Along its banks have rambled in my childhood's happy hours;
My sisters, my companions then, enjoyed those scenes with me,
And oft we 'woke the echoes, in our merry childish glee;
And later, he, with whom I sail o'er time's uncertain stream,
While boating on this river, awoke life's happiest theme.
'Tis night! I'm dreaming of my home, and happy English scenes,
But 'wake to find I'm far away; we're now at New Orleans. [p.80]
'Tis early morn, and from our berth can wharf and houses see,
And genuine the burst of joy, we've reached America.
We thank our God for all the past; my husband goes on shore,
With feelings strangely new and glad, our breakfast to procure.
Returning, he brings water, molasses, and light warm bread,
Not sumptuous fare, but tasted, then, the best we long had had.
With our spirits light and gladsome, these viands seem so good
To us who long have only had, bad water and ship food.
The air seems to exhilarate, we feel so rich and free,
I question, if just hen on earth, were folks more glad than we.
The vessel quickly empties of passengers and crew,
Of course all had to go onshore, New Orleans to view.
We ramble through the streets, and wonder at the air,
Half French, half tropical, which meets us everywhere;
The French market was a marvel, with its show of fruits and flowers,
But a description of it baffles my poetic powers.
The buildings were magnificent and imposingly grand,
But of a style I had not seen within my native land.
I did not like the feeling there, and only take away
Three pleasant recollections which are cherished to this day.
A negress kindly gave an orange to my little child;
A lady handed her a bunch of luscious grapes and smiled; [p.81]
And of some early flowers we bought, just gathered from the sod,
So pure and sweet, they might have come, fresh from the hand of God.
Here, as at Liverpool, the vessel is our only home,
And back to its kindly shelter, at night, like bees we c
The time is drawing very near, when we shall have to go;
Tomorrow, we must bid the Ellen Maria adieu.
It seems as if but yesterday, since first we came on board,
Yet if recorded, what a page its logbook would afford!
Those events are on my memory, and come before me now,
As, for the last time, I stand awhile upon the vessel's prow.
We have suffered, but how willing has been the sacrifice,
Which, like accepted incense, has risen to the skies.
Gratefully, our thanks ascend, to our Father, God, in heaven,
That to us in these Latter-days, He has the Gospel given.
The we'll welcome all before us; let tribulations come,
We are only pilgrims passing through them to our home.
But there's no more time for reverie; we've orders now to go,
And make our acquaintances with the "Rob Roy" and its crew.
My first impressions still remain, I've kept them ever since,
And never hear a steamboat named, without a shrug or wince. [p.82]
We must leave our Irish neighbors, who only thus far come,
T' escape from poverty, and make in this free land a home.
Now very hearty, almost tender, is the last goodbye,
That in the bustle of the hour, we just have time to say.
Captain, mates, and all the ship's company, here we must part,
But pleasant memories of you, will go with many a heart.
The poor sick sailor, (our brethren's care) now is going off,
We see him on his crutches, slowly moving 'long the wharf.
Ellen Maria, old friend, we take our final leave of you,
Tho' dangers oft have threatened, you've borne us safely through,
Many the Saints that you have brought, and landed on this shore;
But now adieu, ill-fated ship, you'll carry Saints no more.
On her next voyage, this vessel, a total wreck was found.
Her captain, and the sailors all were saved; not one was drowned.
On the steamer now! as she is moving off we are told,
There are slaves on board, going up the river to be sold;
Orleans is rich with such traffic; believe me when I say,
I'd rather own the faith I hold, than all its wealth today. [p.83]
BIB: Cornaby, Hannah, "Crossing the Atlantic Ocean. A Reminiscence [poem]," IN Autobiography and Poems (Salt Lake City: J. C. Graham, 1881) pp. 65-83. (CHL)