> Lynn > Poets & Poetry of Dungeon Rock


NATHAN AMES   (1825 - 1865)  published Pirates’ Glen and Dungeon Rock in 1853, three years after Lynn’s incorporation as a city in 1850. This epic poem is a Romantic reworking of Lynn’s greatest legend about pirates and buried treasure at Dungeon Rock in the Lynn Woods. To earn a living, Nathan Ames worked as a patent attorney and was granted patent #25076 for “revolving stairs” in 1859. Although his device was never built, Ames is credited as having invented the modern escalator.

In expanding the legend of Dungeon Rock, Ames made it into a tale of intrigue divided into four cantos totaling sixty pages. In Ame’s version, the pirate Thomas Veal was now Don, married to Clorinda and enemy of the sailor Christopher, whose love Arabel, he had kidnapped. The third canto begins by detailing the natural environment as Christopher sails up the Saugus River to the Iron Works to retrieve the silver that Don has traded him for shackles. Christopher soon realizes he has been naive and has inadvertently contributed to Arabel’s misery. In Canto IV, at its conclusion, the death of Don is magnified melodramatically as he is bitten by a snake representing sin before being entombed within a cave at Dungeon Rock by the earthquake. At the epic’s end, the motif of doubling used frequently throughout the poem is expressed in the two serpents hissing (XLII) and in two causes of Don’s death –– the snake and the quake.


                              PIRATES’  GLEN  AND  DUNGEON  ROCK

                        Canto III


        The summer sun is rolling high ;
           The winds their still siesta take ;
        No broad-wing’d clouds along the sky
           Their cooling shadows make ;
The landscape faints ; all, save the plashy stream,
In breathless torpor, bear the barning beam.


        The birds awhile forget to sing ;
           The eagle leaves the melting sky,
        And on the hill-top folds his wing ;
           The lazy butterfly
Scarce flaps along ; the wild deer pants ; the pines
Swear fragrant pitch ; the shrill-keyed locust whines.


       Meandering on with noiseless tread, –
           Like good men to Eternity,
       That boundless ocean of the dead,
           Resigned, reluctantly, –
Divided , dark , perennial woods between,
Long-lingering Saugus laves his banks of green.


       Still wending up that winding creek,
           Sad Christopher pursues his way,
       Nor heeds the heat ; his swift oars speak
           Impatience of delay.
Startled, the Haleyon bird, the snipe, the crane,
Rise , as he passes , shriek , and light again.

                           . . .


       The smoky foundery heaves in view ;
           A moment, on you opening plot,
       Christopher paused––in haste withdrew,
           Piercing that secret grot
Wherein, mysterious purchasers had told,
Fetters of iron should be met with gold.


      The gold was there; the fetters gone.
         “Ah, me!” he cried , as light broke in
      Upon the deed that he had done ;
         “Ah, me ! and have I been
The dupe of desperate pirates––forged the chains
That bind sweet Arabel in captive pains !"


                           . . .


                        Canto IV


                           . . .



     Those lips––pale lips––see how they move!
         Hark, hark ! I hear two serpents hiss !
     The snake, within thee, greets his love
         With one, long, soul-like kiss !––
Ah ! wretch, too long hast thou nurtured within
Thy breast––thy master now––that monster, Sin!


      Ha ! dost thou now begin to feel,
         No friendly spirit holds thee bound ?
      The serpent’s coils are coils of steel !
         Wilt tread him to the ground ?––
He craves thy pity now ; too mild, too late
Ye twain are one––fast fettered, fate to fate!


      Hearest thou thy threat to Arabel ?
         Clorinda’s supplicating cry ?––
      Thou seest the snake––A fiend from hell,
         Hath come to bid thee die !––
“Reptile, avaunt ! Back to thy flames again !
Like red-hot steel, those eyeballs burn my brain !”

                           . . .


      Prepare to go––but thou art gone !
        Thy Guardian Angel takes his flight,
      Weeping thy deeds of darkness done,
        Alone––to realms of light !
Thou hast thy choice––the angel, or the snake––
No more.––One guide remains; him must thou take.


      The charm advancing, soul with soul
         Will soon embrace, and thou shalt see––
      The fiend again !––His coils unroll !
         His fangs are fixed in thee !––
The pirate falls. The rattle, groan, the gloom
Of death, and silence, fill that dungeon tomb.


      Coiled on his breast the serpent sleeps ;
         His requiem sings the serpent’s hiss.
     Nor friend, nor foe, his exit weeps,
         Who leads a life like this.––
Thus fell, beneath the avenging earthquake shock,
The fiend of Pirates’ Glen in Dungeon Rock.


                            THE END.


from: Pirates' Glen and Dungeon Rock  (Lynn, MA:  W.W. Kellogg) 1853.