Robert Stephen Hawker

Lines to the Rev. R. S. Hawker Vicar of Morwinstow by David Arrott

Who so benevolently superintended the interment of the bodies of the crew of the brig Caledonia, of Arbroath, lost on the coast of Cornwall.

Deem it not rude – a stranger dares to send
These lines to thee, who are the stranger’s friend.
Feebly indeed, by words, can I impart
The humble tribute of a grateful heart;
A tribute due to him who strove to save
The sons of Scotland from the angry wave.
What though thine arm was impotent to wage
Th’unequal contest with the ocean’s rage?
If Heav’n decreed that death should be their doom,
Thy pious care provided them a tomb.
To thee the ruthless sea gave up her dead,
That thou migh’st lay them in their lowly bed.

HAWKER! to thee a pitying heart is giv’n,
Worthy, indeed, a delegate of Heav’n.
No kindred came to pay the tribute due,
To the cold ashes of the shipwreck’d crew;
No mourning widow’s burning tears were shed
O’er him whom she deemed living – who was dead;
No mother gaz’d on him who was her joy;
But now, alas! her dead – her sailor boy.
No – and no train of kindred mourners come
The bear their kinsman to their last sad home.

‘Twas thine to shed the sympathetic tear,
In pity bending o’er the strangers’ bier –
Thine to fulfil the self-imposed trust,
To lay their bones in consecrated dust.
Thou need’st no thanks from me, a grateful bard;
Thy virtuous action finds its own reward.
What though on earth thou ne’er shall cease to share
The mother’s, widow’s, and the orphan’s prayer!
Such deeds as thine are register’d in Heav’n,
And there alone can due reward be giv’n.

*  *  *  *  *

This poem was originally published in the Arbroath Guide, 15 October 1842, and appears in the appendix to The Wreck at Sharpnose Point, by Jeremy Seal, along with ‘Lines on the Crew of the Caledonia’ by John Adams.


– The Wreck of the ‘Caledonia