Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem was inspired by the Blizzard of 1839, which ravaged the North Shore for 12 hours, starting on January 6, 1839. Twenty ships and forty lives were lost during the storm. The probable subject of the story is the schooner Favorite, which sank on a rock called Norman’s Woe off the coast of Gloucester, with all hands lost. After the storm, the body of a woman tied to a mast was found on the shore between Gloucester and Magnolia. The actual Hesperus was a schooner which was seriously damaged while docked in Boston during the storm. Hesperus Avenue in Gloucester is named after this poem.

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It was the schooner Hesperus,That sailed the wintry sea;And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr,To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,Her cheeks like the dawn of day,And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,That ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,His pipe was in his mouth,And he watched how the veering flaw did blowThe smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailòr,Had sailed to the Spanish Main,“I pray thee, put into yonder port,For I fear a hurricane.

“Last night, the moon had a golden ring,And to-night no moon we see!”The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,A gale from the Northeast,The snow fell hissing in the brine,And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amainThe vessel in its strength;She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,Then leaped her cable’s length.

“Come hither! come hither! my little daughtèr,And do not tremble so;For I can weather the roughest galeThat ever wind did blow.”

He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coatAgainst the stinging blast;He cut a rope from a broken spar,And bound her to the mast.

“O father! I hear the church-bells ring,Oh say, what may it be?”“‘It is a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!”And he steered for the open sea.

“O father! I hear the sound of guns,

Oh say, what may it be?”“Some ship in distress, that cannot liveIn such an angry sea!”

“O father! I see a gleaming light,Oh say, what may it be?”But the father answered never a word,A frozen corpse was he.Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,

With his face turned to the skies,The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snowOn his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayedThat savèd she might be;And she thought of Christ, who stilled the waveOn the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,Through the whistling sleet and snow,Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel sweptTow’rds the reef of Norman’s Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts betweenA sound came from the land;It was the sound of the trampling surfOn the rocks and the hard sea-sand.The breakers were right beneath her bows,

She drifted a dreary wreck,And a whooping billow swept the crewLike icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy wavesLooked soft as carded wool,But the cruel rocks, they gored her sideLike the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,With the masts went by the board;Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,A fisherman stood aghast,To see the form of a maiden fair,Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,The salt tears in her eyes;And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,In the midnight and the snow!Christ save us all from a death like this,On the reef of Norman’s Woe!

" data-medium-file="https://ipswich.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/hesperus_original.jpg?w=300" data-large-file="https://ipswich.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/hesperus_original.jpg?w=640" class="size-full wp-image-14949" src="https://ipswich.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/hesperus_original.jpg?w=890" alt="Norman"s Woe, between Magnolia and Gloucester off of Hesperus Road" srcset="https://ipswich.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/hesperus_original.jpg 640w, https://ipswich.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/hesperus_original.jpg?w=150 150w, https://ipswich.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/hesperus_original.jpg?w=300 300w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" />Norman’s Woe, between Magnolia and Gloucester off of Hesperus Road

Wrecks of the coal schooners - Walking near Steep Hill Beach, you might be surprised to see lumps of anthracite coal lying on the sand. This would be a mystery were it not for the tragic history of brigs and schooners transporting coal in the 19th century.
Wreck of the Watch and Wait, August 24, 1635 - Many ships and lives were lost in the Great Colonial Hurricane, including 21 passengers who had set out from Ipswich on August 21, 1635 on a small bark named "Watch and Wait." As they rounded Cape Ann they were suddenly met by the force of the winds.
Wreck of the steamer Laura Marion, December 23, 1899 - This is the story of the tragic fate of the Laura Marion and her crew, swept under by one fell stroke of the sea, bringing sudden anguish to the hearts of the families who on Christmas eve.
Wreck of the Hesperus, January 6, 1839 - It was the schooner Hesperus,That sailed the wintry sea;And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr,To bear him company.
Wreck of the Falconer, December 17, 1847 - On December 17, 1847 the brig Falconer, loaded with bituminous coal, wrecked at Crane Beach during a fierce winter storm. A dozen of the crew and passengers are buried in a common grave at the Old North Burying Ground.
Wreck of the Edward S. Eveleth, October 1922 - In October 1922, the sand schooner Edward S. Eveleth rolled over when a wave rushed over her deck and pushed her onto the edge of Steep Hill Beach. Filled with sand, each tide buried her deeper. Her remains were visible for several years. The skeleton of the hull is just off-shore a short distance from the wreck of the Ada K. Damon.
Wreck of the Deposit, December 23, 1839 - Dec. 23, 1839 two days before Christmas a storm caught the schooner "Deposit" on her passage out of Belfast, Maine. Capt. Cotterall was lost, and several of the crew were buried at the Old South Cemetery.
Wreck of the Ada K. Damon - Christmas, 1909 witnessed the heaviest storm in many years. The ship was wrecked during the captain"s first trip for a load of sand from the plentiful supply on Plum Island.
The Spectre Ship of Salem - On the fourth day after the ship left port, the sun came out and in the distance could be seen the same ship sailing effortlessly back into port directly into the wind. As the Noah’s Dove approached, its passengers including the young couple were visible but ghost-like.
The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar - The Ipswich Bar has a long history of tragic shipwrecks. Its swift currents and shallow waters are especially dangerous during storms, and many ships have gone aground. The hull of the Ada K. Damon sits on Steep Hill Beach.
The Ipswich lighthouse - In 1881, a 45-foot cast iron lighthouse was erected at Crane Beach, replacing an earlier structure. By 1913, the sand had shifted so much that the lighthouse was 1,090 feet from the high water mark. Use of the light was discontinued in 1932 and in 1939 the Coast Guard floated the entire lighthouse to Edgartown on Martha"s Vineyard.
The Great Colonial Hurricane and the wreck of the Angel Gabriel - In August 1635, the 240-ton Angel Gabriel sank in Pemaquid Bay after sailing into the most intense hurricane in New England history. Among the survivors were members of the Cogswell, Burnham and Andrews families, who settled in an area of Ipswich known as Chebacco.
The ”October Gale” of 1841 - In the latter part of September, 1841, was a long, unbroken spell of uncomfortable weather, which culminated in a violent and cold storm of wind, snow and rain on the night of October 2, continuing four days.
Hurricanes and winter storms - Massachusetts has the highest probability of all of the states to be hit by an ocean storm, which includes hurricanes and nor"easters.

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Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839 - Three gales of unequaled fury and destructiveness swept along our coast carrying desolation and death in their stormy pathway, and overwhelming many families in the deepest mourning.