Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Forty Steps

The Gibson House Museum's founder, Charlie Gibson, continued to spend time at his family's summer home in Nahant throughout his life. The home was called Forty Steps, because there were forty steps separating the home from the water. A few months after D-Day during World War II, Charlie wrote this poem, partly based on the fact that there had been guns placed near this place that had been a sanctuary for the Gibson family for generations.

  The Forty Steps
Once Forty Steps; now thirty nine – 
   And they in doubtful state,
Like ravished riches in decline,
                                        The blasting of the great.                                          

Yet God has blessed the sacred spot,
   Now touched by time and war,
While echoing the cannon’s shot
   Beyond the ocean’s roar.

Once peopled by a stately throng,
   That bathed upon the shore,
Now to the poet still belong
   Their annals and their lore.

O footprints of an age outworn
   By fickle time and tide,
Your hallowed dust lies all but gone,
   Its grandeur and its pride.

Today a soldier’s martial tread
   Guards what is now no more,
The gaiety from laughter bred,
   The peace – that led to war.

Although my tourees might note that I'm often fairly harsh when I talk about Charlie's poetry, I think this poem really captures a part of his personality. Here we find him remembering the Nahant of his childhood, and comparing it to what seems to be a desolate and laughless place during the war. Charlie had a hard time accepting that we live in an ever changing world- and for someone who lived through two world wars, can we really blame him?

by: Katie Schinabeck, Former Museum Guide

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