The Spike or Victoria College Review, June 1903
The Song of the Merchant Navy
The Song of the Merchant Navy.
We have thrashed through the Channel's short seas;
We have bent to the Biscay's play;
We have raced at the Tradewind's bidding;
We have lurched into Table Bay;
We have wasted the winds of heaven
In the wait for the rain-stayed wool;
And we've whistled the breeze in the offing,
With the holds and cabins full.
And then the long lie at the stream-buoy!
With never a bale aboard;
With the weed and shell on the bilge-plates,
With the Home-winds all abroad;
And the clean sleek liners dipping
The ensign, as they glide
Athwart to the curve of skyline
To the churn of the twin-screws' pride.
Aye, let them pass in their triumph,
With the reek and the engine's ring;
And give me the grace of the clipper,
And the spread of the clipper's wing.
For the white sails sought out the pathways
On the face of every sea,
And with tramp and liner have builded
Our Temple of Unity.
For it's "England, England, England!"
Whatsoever course ye shape:
Be it round the Horn, through Suez,
Or west to the midway Cape.
Yes, it's "England, England, England!"
That's the screw's or the halyards' song,
"Home, home to the Mother with our freight;
She calls, and we've tarried long."
So the last truck's laid alongside,
And the last bale in her hold,
And the hungry bunkers plenished,
And the last long tally told;
And the bluff bows swing out seaward,
And the winch-rope glances home,
With the engines throbbing (like our hearts)
As the sunk screw whips the foam.
We bring Her the flush of the Tropic;
We bring Her the prairie's spoil;
We bring Her the drought-fought, snow-fought clip;
We bring Her the rich ore's toil.
And She saith—"I love your wake-lines,
And your hulls on the sea-sky ridge,
For ye are the wefts of our family web,
The spans of our Empire-bridge.
The hills have fed the valleys with their loam
Through the dark winters' rains all silently;
From the sere sorrow of the Autumn's mould
Life gathers in the fresh strong April leaf;
The ripe pine-pollen showered upon the wind,
Where findeth it the earth? It works its work.
Not what the past held ringing great will die!
The deed that in its heat won from the world—
Claiming a kindred with some hardy son—
A clamorous recognition, that did pulse
The life-blood hotly in a quickened race,
And swept aside the thoughts that feed on self,—
Awakening the full true play of life,
Or let like-soul with purpose strong and high,—
Such passeth not into the silence: years
May rib and rob the Earth in their flood-tide,
But what hath turned the current of the soul
Into a channel broadly human,—this
Not wholly dieth though its sleep be long.
Believe not, sister, that 'tis lost to thee.
All that the heroes wrought through my long day
Was wrought for thee, though thou wast yet unborn.
Tales of the All staked for the heart's ideal—
The one against the many—life flung by
For country's love and Empire's unity,—
Not with the ashes dies the fire of these.
Young grow my years as my fond thoughts recall
Those that toiled greatly for my furtherance,
Or fed my flame with one grand masterstroke.
Sister, mines eyes look yearward. They would see
What there was great and noble in my life,
That in my heart enthroned; and what was mean,
Set to a useful purpose: they would see
The home-land bound to her far colonies
By the quick beating of like-influenced heart,
By the warm pulsing of the kindly blood,
By the full-frieghted hull from port to port,
And by the gathering at a common shrine
Of culture,—yea, the storied, studious hall
Filles with the fresh voice of the outer seas;
(As in the thought of one strong sun of mine).
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Ah, sister, take this thought home to thy heart,
Naught that thou dost availeth, save it flow
From Truth and Justice,—meaner streams may scar
The landscape in a freshet, but they can
Carve no abiding channel to the sea;
Wherefore be heedful that thy heart is pure,
And beating for the higher life of man.
I charge thee by the thought lines on thy brow,
I charge thee by the Christ thou holdest dear,—
That thou do never from the lust of lands
Or greed of power pick quarrel. Lend thine aid,
Without the cold dictates of policy,
Unto the cry of weaker one oppressed,
And what thy people's conscience doth dictate,—
That do, and leave thy prestige unto God.
I take thy hand all trustful: I believe
That with the years the earth rolls nearer Right,
And Truth, and Knowledge, Justice, love of Good.