Werewolf Wednesday: “The Wehr Wolf’s Song” (1859)

This week’s slice of werewolf literature comes from an obscure 1859 book entitled Home Lyrics: Secular and Sacred, from a Country Parsonage. The editor is identified simply as “a village incumbent”. Google Books indicates that an individual named Abner William Brown was involved in the book’s composition, although it’s not clear where this information came from.

The book’s preface introduces its contents as “a selection from poetry written by different members of one family, at various and widely-separated dates.” We are told that some of the poems were published elsewhere, but the preface doesn’t specify which ones and where they saw print.

Amongst the contents is a poem entitled “The Wehr Wolf’s Song”. The antiquated spelling was used by other writers in the nineteenth century — see also George W. M. Reynolds’ Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf — but the poem’s depiction of a werewolf is like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere. The anonymous poet appears to have conceived werewolves as sea monsters that destroy boats.

Here’s the poem in full:

I ride on the wave where no eye can see;
The pearl of the ocean belong to me;
My diamonds are clearer than evening dew,
My gems may rival the rainbow’s hue!
My magic realm is the broad blue main,
Where mariner’s skill is all in vain.
When I behold a deep-laden barque,
On its white sails I stamp my mark;
Then fierce rise the waves with a sudden gale,
And the art of the pilot can nought avail,
And I hoard its treasure that sinks to me
In the coral caves of the fathomless sea.
How oft have I watched a little boat
On the pitiless briny waves afloat,
And gazed with delight on its dread distress,
As the trouble sailors shorewards press;
While I raise the waves with savage spleen,
And the boat engulphed is never more seen.

A footnote to the poem tells us that “This and the following piece refer to well-known German legends”. The poem that follows is “The Fairyland in the Rhine”, and I’m including it here because it mentions a “‘wild wolf’ of the waters” which suggests a connection to the above poem.

Once in the sable midnight,
When moonbeams were at play,
I watched the blue Rhine flowing,
As it danced upon its way.

And I plunged into the river,
When a fiercly-howling blast
Echoed loud from Lurley Felzen,
As the waves rolled dashing past

Then the “wild wolf” of the waters,
Mounted high upon the wave;
But the depths heard not his anger,–
They were silent as the grave.

Vast caves of pearly crystal,
And a ceiling of blue sky
Hid me safe from all the fury
That was raging up on high

I had found the land all-joyous,
With fields all bright and fair,
Where gladness reigned unbroken,
And nature knew no care.

The flowers were all unfading,
Thought the tear was in their eye;
Yet they never drooped nor bent their heads,
Nor laid them down to die.

The merie sang all sweetly,
And the prince of first bowers,
Poured forth his soft delicious lay
To cheer the midnight flowers.

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