Whenever the sun slides beneath the sharp rocks,
Whenever the ocean is blacker than ink,
A man in a tower takes a match from a box,
And lights up the lamp that saves men from the drink.
His lighthouse is higher than anything grows,
The steps they are many and winding and steep,
Alone with his duty the light keeper knows,
The lure of Poseidon, deceptively deep.
The man had a wife who deserted her post,
And from her, a son , who will visit sometimes,
The nights spent with him, the man treasures the most,
As they sit by the fire eating bread, cheese and wines.
One morning his son rowed across to the shore,
But his dad wasn’t there, so he rushed to the house,
Anxious feet took the steps and he flung back the door,
The old man was in bed and he couldn’t be roused.
The doctor was summoned, who nodded his head;
‘To the boat, then the hospital on the mainland!’
Where his father was laid on a crisp, cotton bed,
And the son paced and fretted, and wrung out his hands.
The sunset glowed fire through hospital drapes,
He pulled them aside and gazed through the night,
At the lighthouse they’d left, and his mouth fell agape,
At the tower was darkness where they should be light.
His father had not lit the lamp, it was out,
The sailors had come to depend on its guide,
And fear gripped the son as a horn sounded out;
The hail of a ship rounding on the north side.
He glanced at his father; he was still asleep,
His breathing was laboured, his colour was ash,
But the rocks on the island were jagged and steep,
The son had to leave before all hopes were dashed.
Battling wind that was strong as the devil,
He rowed against waves, high and fiendishly cold,
His heart racing wild, he kept his gaze level,
On the gloom of the lighthouse, his homestead of old.
The ship’s horn blew louder when he became close,
And it fought with the sound of the thundering waves,
Its light in the darkness searched headlands and coves,
But without the lighthouse it could hardly be saved.
He jumped in the sea before he’d reached the shore,
And braved the cold waves to the rocks, dark and slick,
In the lighthouse he took the stairs two, three and more,
Till he reached the top, then struck a match to the wick,
In a moment, the light grew as bright as the day,
He started the workings, the lamp swung around,
He ran to the window and ducked the lamp’s sway,
To see if the mighty ship had run aground.
The beacon threw light with such power and grace,
The captain looked up and knew his course was doomed,
The lighthouse was on the impending rock face,
That his ship was bearing down, they’d be marooned!
He swung the ship’s wheel and the boat rolled to Port,
The crew hung on tight and cried out to the moon,
They’d been years at sea, and great battles they’d fought,
But this was the end; they knew death would come soon.
And just when they thought that their end was marked out,
The ship glanced the rocks with a scrape and a screech,
Like a howl from the gods; and the captain cried out,
‘We are saved!’ and the crew raised a cheer one and each,
From up in the lighthouse the son breathed a sigh
When he saw that the ship was out of the rocks,
Remembering his father he uttered a cry,
And he dashed down the stairs, holding tight the matchbox,
His father stood straight, gazing out at the light,
At the hospital window he had a fine view,
When the flame had fired up he awoke to the night,
And the illness had left him, he felt quite brand-new,
He slipped from the room feeling buoyant and spry,
And met his son just as he came into sight,
Though neither knew how, and neither knew why,
The man’s health was linked to the Lighthouse’s light.
He never forgot to light it again,
But the son was concerned now to leave him alone,
So they still live together, those two lighthouse men,
To keep sailors safe by guiding they home.