A wasted life is like a wreck that lies
Half sunk in sands of fearful solitude
As ’twere the ribs of some huge shore-washed whale
That once plunged master of the mighty storm
But driven by that strange ocean river came
From realms Hyperborean and from seas
Rough with their steel blue mounds of hillocked ice
And sickening in these southern latitudes
And summer simmering seas forgot its strength
And helpless drove upon these sandy shoals
And lashing anger felt the cruel tide
Forsake its slimy sand-bespotted bulk,
And all the tortures of the high noon sun,
So gaping died the prey of pigmy men,
Who, soon as death had dimmed the giants’ eyes,
Clomb hand in hand the mountain of warm flesh,
And with mock bravery, piercing thro’ the depths
Of fatness, struck the mammoth’s purple heart,
And laughed to see the red tide flush the sand,
Or, doubting if the brute might still relax
The stiffening sinews of the death-wide jaws,
Bade their rough dames and wondering children walk
Into the mighty bone-fenced mouth, and take
Clusters of clinging tangle and sea shells
To deck their house shelves as memorials.

                                                                                                July 1872

(Unpublished poem. RR/1/7 – Catherine Rawnsley’s Commonplace Book)