The White Ship
H. P. Lovecraft
Written in November 1919
Published in November of 1919
The United Amateur
The White Ship
I am Basil Elton, keeper of the North Point light that my father and grandfather kept before me. Far
from the shore stands the gray lighthouse, above sunken slimy rocks that are seen when the tide is low,
but unseen when the tide is high. Past that beacon for a century have swept the majestic barques of the
seven seas. In the days of my grandfather there were many; in the days of my father not so many; and
now there are so few that I sometimes feel strangely alone, as though I were the last man on our planet.
From far shores came those white-sailed argosies of old; from far Eastern shores where warm suns
shine and sweet odors linger about strange gardens and gay temples. The old captains of the sea came
often to my grandfather and told him of these things which in turn he told to my father, and my father
told to me in the long autumn evenings when the wind howled eerily from the East. And I have read
more of these things, and of many things besides, in the books men gave me when I was young and
filled with wonder.
But more wonderful than the lore of old men and the lore of books is the secret lore of ocean. Blue,
green, gray, white or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent. All my days have
I watched it and listened to it, and I know it well. At first it told to me only the plain little tales of calm
beaches and near ports, but with the years it grew more friendly and spoke of other things; of things
more strange and more distant in space and time. Sometimes at twilight the gray vapors of the horizon
have parted to grant me glimpses of the ways beyond; and sometimes at night the deep waters of the
sea have grown clear and phosphorescent, to grant me glimpses of the ways beneath. And these
glimpses have been as often of the ways that were and the ways that might be, as of the ways that are;
for ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.
Out of the South it was that the White Ship used to come when the moon was full and high in the
heavens. Out of the South it would glide very smoothly and silently over the sea. And whether the sea
was rough or calm, and whether the wind was friendly or adverse, it would always glide smoothly and
silently, its sails distant and its long strange tiers of oars moving rhythmically. One night I espied upon
the deck a man, bearded and robed, and he seemed to beckon me to embark for far unknown shores.
Many times afterward I saw him under the full moon, and never did he beckon me.
Very brightly did the moon shine on the night I answered the call, and I walked out over the waters to
the White Ship on a bridge of moonbeams. The man who had beckoned now spoke a welcome to me in
a soft language I seemed to know well, and the hours were filled with soft songs of the oarsmen as we