The light I have tended for forty years
Is now to be run by a set of gears.
The Keeper said, and it isn’t nice
To be put ashore by a mere device.
Now, fair or foul the winds that blow
Or smooth or rough the sea below,
It is all the same. The ships at night
Will run to an automatic light.
The clock and the gear which truly turn
Are times and set so the light shall burn.
But did ever an automatic thing
Set plants about in the early spring?
And did ever a bit of wire and gear
A cry for help in darkness hear?
Or welcome callers and show them through
The lighthouse rooms as I used to do?
‘Tis not in malice these things I say
All men must bow to the newer way.
But it’s strange for a lighthouse man like me
After forty years on shore to be.
And I wonder now - will the grass stay green?
Will the brass stay bright and the windows clean?
And will ever that automatic thing
Plant marigolds in early spring?
Editor’s Note: In his time, Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959) was known as America’s Poet. From his first published work in the Detroit Free Press until his death in 1958, Edgar A. Guest penned some 11,000 poems which were syndicated in some 300 newspapers and collected in more than 20 books. He is the only person to have been named Poet Laureate of Michigan. His popularity led to a weekly radio program and even an NBC television show.
It is almost as if Edgar A. Guest read the mind and thoughts of many of the lighthouse keepers and transcribed their collective feelings for this poem that was published in newspapers nationwide on September 13, 1939. This was during the time of rapid automation of our nation’s lighthouses, slightly over two months from when the U.S. Coast Guard took over the United States Lighthouse Service. (Lighthouse Digest archive photo)
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2021 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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