of them all. Their good guns guarded their great gray sides that were thirty foot in the sheer, When there came a certain trading-brig with news of a privateer. Her rigging was rough with the clotted drift that drives in a Northern breeze, Her sides were clogged with the lazy weed that spawns in the Eastern seas. Light she rode in the rude tide-rip, to left and right she rolled, And the skipper sat on the scuttle-butt and stared at an empty hold. "I ha' paid Port dues for your Law," quoth he, "and where is the Law ye boast If I sail unscathed from a heathen port to be robbed on a Christian coast? Ye have smoked the hives of the Laccadives as we burn the lice in a bunk, We tack not now to a Gallang prow or a plunging Pei-ho junk; I had no fear but the seas were clear as far as a sail might fare Till I met with a lime-washed Yankee brig that rode off Finisterre. There were canvas blinds to his bow-gun ports to screen the weight he bore, And the signals ran for a merchantman from Sandy Hook to the Nore. He would not fly the Rovers' flag — the bloody or the black, But now he floated the Gridiron and now he flaunted the Jack. He spoke of the Law as he crimped my crew — he swore it was only a loan; But when I would ask for my own again, he swore it was none of my own. He has taken my little parrakeets that nest beneath the Line, He has stripped my rails of the shaddock-frails and the green unripened pine; He has taken my bale of dammer and spice I won beyond the seas, He has taken my grinning heathen gods — and what should he want o' these? My foremast would not mend his boom, my deckhouse patch his boats; He has whittled the two, this Yank Yahoo, to peddle for shoe-peg oats. I could not fight for the failing light and a rough beam-sea beside, But I hulled him once for a clumsy crimp and twice because he lied. Had I had guns (as I had goods) to work my Christian harm, I had run him up from his quarter-deck to trade with his own yard-arm; I had nailed his ears to my capstan-head, and ripped them off with a saw, And soused them in the bilgewater, and served them to him raw; I had flung him blind in a rudderless boat to rot in the rocking dark, I had towed him aft of his own craft, a bait for his brother shark; I had lapped him round with cocoa husk, and drenched him with the oil, And lashed him fast to his own mast to blaze above my spoil; I had stripped his hide for my hammock-side, and tasselled his beard i' the mesh, And spitted his crew on the live bamboo that grows through the gangrened flesh; I had hove him down by the mangroves brown, where the mud-reef sucks and draws, Moored by the heel to his own keel to wait for the land-crab's claws! He is lazar within and lime without, ye can nose him far enow, For he carries the taint of a musky ship — the reek of the slaver's dhow!" The skipper looked at the tiering guns and the bulwarks tall and cold, And the Captains Three full courteously peered down at the gutted hold, And the Captains Three called courteously from deck to scuttle-butt: — "Good Sir, we ha' dealt with that merchantman or ever your teeth were cut. Your words be words of a lawless race, and the Law it standeth thus: He comes of a race that have never a Law, and he never has boarded us. We ha' sold him canvas and rope and spar — we know that his price is fair, And we know that he weeps for the lack of a Law as he rides off Finisterre. And since he is damned for a gallows-thief by you and better than you, We hold it meet that the English fleet should know that we hold him true." The skipper called to the tall taffrail: — "And what is that to me? Did ever you hear of a Yankee brig that rifled a Seventy-three? Do I loom so large from your quarter-deck that I lift like a ship o' the Line? He has learned to run from a shotted gun and harry such craft as mine. There is never a Law on the Cocos Keys to hold a white man in, But we do not steal the niggers' meal, for that is a nigger's sin. Must he have his Law as a quid to chaw, or laid in brass on his wheel? Does he steal with tears when he buccaneers? 'Fore Gad, then, why does he steal?" The skipper bit on a deep-sea word, and the word it was not sweet, For he could see the Captains Three had signalled to the Fleet. But three and two, in white and blue, the whimpering flags began: — "We have heard a tale of a — foreign sail, but he is a merchantman." The skipper peered beneath his palm and swore by the Great Horn Spoon: — "'Fore Gad, the Chaplain of the Fleet would bless my picaroon!" By two and three the flags blew free to lash the laughing air: — "We have sold our spars to the merchantman — we know that his price is fair." The skipper winked his Western eye, and swore by a China storm: — "They ha' rigged him a Joseph's jury-coat to keep his honour warm." The halliards twanged against the tops, the bunting bellied broad, The skipper spat in the empty hold and mourned for a wasted cord. Masthead — masthead, the signal sped by the line o' the British craft; The skipper called to his Lascar crew, and put her about and laughed: — "It's mainsail haul, my bully boys all — we'll out to the seas again — Ere they set us to paint their pirate saint, or scrub at his grapnel-chain. It's fore-sheet free, with her head to the sea, and the swing of the unbought brine — We'll make no sport in an English court till we come as a ship o' the Line: Till we come as a ship o' the Line, my lads, of thirty foot in the sheer, Lifting again from the outer main with news of a privateer; Flying his pluck at our mizzen-truck for weft of Admiralty, Heaving his head for our dipsey-lead in sign that we keep the sea. Then fore-sheet home as she lifts to the foam — we stand on the outward tack, We are paid in the coin of the white man's trade — the bezant is hard, ay, and black. The frigate-bird shall carry my word to the Kling and the Orang-Laut How a man may sail from a heathen coast to be robbed in a Christian port; How a man may be robbed in Christian port while Three Great Captains there Shall dip their flag to a slaver's rag — to show that his trade is fair!"
THE BALLAD OF THE "CLAMPHERDOWN"
It was our war-ship Clampherdown Would sweep the Channel clean, Wherefore she kept her hatches close When the merry Channel chops arose, To save the bleached marine.
She had one bow-gun of a hundred ton, And a great stern-gun beside; They dipped their noses deep in the sea, They racked their stays and stanchions free In the wash of the wind-whipped tide.
It was our war-ship Clampherdown, Fell in with a cruiser light That carried the dainty Hotchkiss gun And a pair o' heels wherewith to run From the grip of a close-fought fight.
She opened fire at seven miles — As ye shoot at a bobbing cork — And once she fired and twice she fired, Till the bow-gun drooped like a lily tired That lolls upon the stalk.
"Captain, the bow-gun melts apace, The deck-beams break below, 'Twere well to rest for an hour or twain, And botch the shattered plates again." And he answered, "Make it so."
She opened fire within the mile — As ye shoot at the flying duck — And the great stern-gun shot fair and true, With the heave of the ship, to the stainless blue, And the great stern-turret stuck.
"Captain, the turret fills with steam, The feed-pipes burst below — You can hear the hiss of the helpless ram, You can hear the twisted runners jam." And he answered, "Turn and go!"
It was our war-ship Clampherdown, And grimly did she roll; Swung round to take the cruiser's fire As the White Whale faces the Thresher's ire When they war by the frozen Pole.
"Captain, the shells are falling fast, And faster still fall we; And it is not meet for English stock To bide in the heart of an eight-day clock The death they cannot see."
"Lie down, lie down, my bold A.B., We drift upon her beam; We dare not ram, for she can run; And dare ye fire another gun, And die in the peeling steam?"
It was our war-ship Clampherdown That carried an armour-belt; But fifty feet at stern and bow Lay bare as the paunch of the purser's sow, To the hail of the Nordenfeldt.
"Captain, they hack us through and through; The chilled steel bolts are swift! We have emptied the bunkers in open sea, Their shrapnel bursts where our coal should be." And he answered, "Let her drift."
It was our war-ship Clampherdown, Swung round upon the tide, Her two dumb guns glared south and north, And the blood and the bubbling steam ran forth, And she ground the cruiser's side.
"Captain, they cry, the fight is done, They bid you send your sword." And he answered, "Grapple her stern and bow. They have asked for the steel. They shall have it now; Out cutlasses and board!"
It was our war-ship Clampherdown Spewed up four hundred men; And the scalded stokers yelped delight, As they rolled in the waist and heard the fight Stamp o'er their steel-walled pen.
They cleared the cruiser end to end, From conning-tower to hold. They fought as they fought in Nelson's fleet; They were stripped to the waist, they were bare to the feet, As it was in the days of old.
It was the sinking Clampherdown Heaved up her battered side — And carried a million pounds in steel, To the cod and the corpse-fed conger-eel, And the scour of the Channel tide.
It was the crew of the Clampherdown Stood out to sweep the sea, On a cruiser won from an ancient foe, As it was in the days of long ago, And as it still shall be.
THE BALLAD OF THE "BOLIVAR"
Seven men from all the world, back to Docks again, Rolling down the Ratcliffe Road drunk and raising Cain: Give the girls another drink 'fore we sign away — We that took the Bolivar out across the Bay!
We put out from Sunderland loaded down with rails; We put back to Sunderland 'cause our cargo shifted; We put out from Sunderland — met the winter gales — Seven days and seven nights to the Start we drifted. Racketing her rivets loose, smoke-stack white as snow, All the coals adrift adeck, half the rails below, Leaking like a lobster-pot, steering like a dray — Out we took the Bolivar, out across the Bay!
One by one the Lights came up, winked and let us by; Mile by mile we waddled on, coal and fo'c'sle short; Met a blow that laid us down, heard a bulkhead fly; Left the Wolf behind us with a two-foot list to port. Trailing like a wounded duck, working out her soul; Clanging like a smithy-shop after every roll; Just a funnel and a mast lurching through the spray — So we threshed the Bolivar out across the Bay!
'Felt her hog and felt her sag, betted when she'd break; Wondered every time she raced if she'd stand the shock; Heard the seas like drunken men pounding at her strake; Hoped the Lord 'ud keep his thumb on the plummer-block. Banged against the iron decks, bilges choked with coal; Flayed and frozen foot and hand, sick of heart and soul; Last we prayed she'd buck herself into judgment Day — Hi! we cursed the Bolivar knocking round the Bay!
O her nose flung up to sky, groaning to be still — Up and down and back we went, never time for breath; Then the money paid at Lloyd's caught her by the heel, And the stars ran round and round dancin' at our death. Aching for an hour's sleep, dozing off between; 'Heard the rotten rivets draw when she took it green; 'Watched the compass chase its tail like a cat at play — That was on the Bolivar, south across the Bay.
Once we saw between the squalls, lyin' head to swell — Mad with work and weariness, wishin' they was we — Some damned Liner's lights go by like a long hotel; Cheered her from the Bolivar swampin' in the sea. Then a grayback cleared us out, then the skipper laughed; "Boys, the wheel has gone to Hell — rig the winches aft! Yoke the kicking rudder-head — get her under way!" So we steered her, pulley-haul, out across the Bay!
Just a pack o' rotten plates puttied up with tar, In we came, an' time enough, 'cross Bilbao Bar. Overloaded, undermanned, meant to founder, we Euchred God Almighty's storm, bluffed the Eternal Sea!
Seven men from all the world, back to town again, Rollin' down the Ratcliffe Road drunk and raising Cain: Seven men from out of Hell. Ain't the owners gay, 'Cause we took the "Bolivar" safe across the Bay?
THE SACRIFICE OF ER-HEB
Er-Heb beyond the Hills of Ao-Safai Bears witness to the truth, and Ao-Safai Hath told the men of Gorukh. Thence the tale Comes westward o'er the peaks to India.
The story of Bisesa, Armod's child, — A maiden plighted to the Chief in War, The Man of Sixty Spears, who held the Pass That leads to Thibet, but to-day is gone To seek his comfort of the God called Budh The Silent — showing how the Sickness ceased Because of her who died to save the tribe.
Taman is One and greater than us all, Taman is One and greater than all Gods: Taman is Two in One and rides the sky, Curved like a stallion's croup, from dusk to dawn, And drums upon it with his heels, whereby Is bred the neighing thunder in the hills.
This is Taman, the God of all Er-Heb, Who was before all Gods, and made all Gods, And presently will break the Gods he made, And step upon the Earth to govern men Who give him milk-dry ewes and cheat his Priests, Or leave his shrine unlighted — as Er-Heb Left it unlighted and forgot Taman, When all the Valley followed after Kysh And Yabosh, little Gods but very wise, And from the sky Taman beheld their sin.
He sent the Sickness out upon the hills, The Red Horse Sickness with the iron hooves, To turn the Valley to Taman again.
And the Red Horse snuffed thrice into the wind, The naked wind that had no fear of him; And the Red Horse stamped thrice upon the snow, The naked snow that had no fear of him; And the Red Horse went out across the rocks, The ringing rocks that had no fear of him; And downward, where the lean birch meets the snow, And downward, where the gray pine meets the birch, And downward, where the dwarf oak meets the pine, Till at his feet our cup-like pastures lay.
That night, the slow mists of the evening dropped, Dropped as a cloth upon a dead man's face, And weltered in the Valley, bluish-white Like water very silent — spread abroad, Like water very silent, from the Shrine Unlighted of Taman to where the stream Is dammed to fill our cattle-troughs — sent up White waves that rocked and heaved and then were still, Till all the Valley glittered like a marsh, Beneath the moonlight, filled with sluggish mist Knee-deep, so that men waded as they walked.
That night, the Red Horse grazed above the Dam, Beyond the cattle-troughs. Men heard him feed, And those that heard him sickened where they lay.
Thus came the Sickness to Er-Heb, and slew Ten men, strong men, and of the women four; And the Red Horse went hillward with the dawn, But near the cattle-troughs his hoof-prints lay.
That night, the slow mists of the evening dropped, Dropped as a cloth upon the dead, but rose A little higher, to a young girl's height; Till all the Valley glittered like a lake, Beneath the moonlight, filled with sluggish mist.
That night, the Red Horse grazed beyond the Dam, A stone's-throw from the troughs. Men heard him feed, And those that heard him sickened where they lay. Thus came the Sickness to Er-Heb, and slew Of men a score, and of the women eight, And of the children two.
Because the road To Gorukh was a road of enemies, And Ao-Safai was blocked with early snow, We could not flee from out the Valley. Death Smote at us in a slaughter-pen, and Kysh Was mute as Yabosh, though the goats were slain; And the Red Horse grazed nightly by the stream, And later, outward, towards the Unlighted Shrine, And those that heard him sickened where they lay.
Then said Bisesa to the Priests at dusk, When the white mist rose up breast-high, and choked The voices in the houses of the dead: — "Yabosh and Kysh avail not. If the Horse Reach the Unlighted Shrine we surely die. Ye have forgotten of all Gods the Chief, Taman!" Here rolled the thunder through the Hills And Yabosh shook upon his pedestal. "Ye have forgotten of all Gods the Chief Too long." And all were dumb save one, who cried On Yabosh with the Sapphire 'twixt His knees, But found no answer in the smoky roof, And, being smitten of the Sickness, died Before the altar of the Sapphire Shrine.
Then said Bisesa: — "I am near to Death, And have the Wisdom of the Grave for gift To bear me on the path my feet must tread. If there be wealth on earth, then I am rich, For Armod is the first of all Er-Heb; If there be beauty on the earth," — her eyes Dropped for a moment to the temple floor, — "Ye know that I am fair. If there be love, Ye know that love is mine." The Chief in War, The Man of Sixty Spears, broke from the press, And would have clasped her, but the Priests withstood, Saying: — "She has a message from Taman." Then said Bisesa: — "By my wealth and love And beauty, I am chosen of the God Taman." Here rolled the thunder through the Hills And Kysh fell forward on the Mound of Skulls.
In darkness, and before our Priests, the maid Between the altars cast her bracelets down, Therewith the heavy earrings Armod made, When he was young, out of the water-gold Of Gorukh — threw the breast-plate thick with jade Upon the turquoise anklets — put aside The bands of silver on her brow and neck; And as the trinkets tinkled on the stones, The thunder of Taman lowed like a bull.
Then said Bisesa, stretching out her hands, As one in darkness fearing Devils: — "Help! O Priests, I am a woman very weak, And who am I to know the will of Gods? Taman hath called me — whither shall I go?" The Chief in War, the Man of Sixty Spears, Howled in his torment, fettered by the Priests, But dared not come to her to drag her forth, And dared not lift his spear against the Priests. Then all men wept.
There was a Priest of Kysh Bent with a hundred winters, hairless, blind, And taloned as the great Snow-Eagle is. His seat was nearest to the altar-fires, And he was counted dumb among the Priests. But, whether Kysh decreed, or from Taman The impotent tongue found utterance we know As little as the bats beneath the eaves. He cried so that they heard who stood without: — "To the Unlighted Shrine!" and crept aside Into the shadow of his fallen God And whimpered, and Bisesa went her way.
That night, the slow mists of the evening dropped, Dropped as a cloth upon the dead, and rose Above the roofs, and by the Unlighted Shrine Lay as the slimy water of the troughs When murrain thins the cattle of Er-Heb: And through the mist men heard the Red Horse feed.
In Armod's house they burned Bisesa's dower, And killed her black bull Tor, and broke her wheel, And loosed her hair, as for the marriage-feast, With cries more loud than mourning for the dead.
Across the fields, from Armod's dwelling-place, We heard Bisesa weeping where she passed To seek the Unlighted Shrine; the Red Horse neighed And followed her, and on the river-mint His hooves struck dead and heavy in our ears.
Out of the mists of evening, as the star Of Ao-Safai climbs through the black snow-blur To show the Pass is clear, Bisesa stepped Upon the great gray slope of mortised stone, The Causeway of Taman. The Red Horse neighed Behind her to the Unlighted Shrine — then fled North to the Mountain where his stable lies.
They know who dared the anger of Taman, And watched that night above the clinging mists, Far up the hill, Bisesa's passing in.
She set her hand upon the carven door, Fouled by a myriad bats, and black with time, Whereon is graved the Glory of Taman In letters older than the Ao-Safai; And twice she turned aside and twice she wept, Cast down upon the threshold, clamouring For him she loved — the Man of Sixty Spears, And for her father, — and the black bull Tor, Hers and her pride. Yea, twice she turned away Before the awful darkness of the door, And the great horror of the Wall of Man Where Man is made the plaything of Taman, An Eyeless Face that waits above and laughs.
But the third time she cried and put her palms Against the hewn stone leaves, and prayed Taman To spare Er-Heb and take her life for price.
They know who watched, the doors were rent apart And closed upon Bisesa, and the rain Broke like a flood across the Valley, washed The mist away; but louder than the rain The thunder of Taman filled men with fear.
Some say that from the Unlighted Shrine she cried For succour, very pitifully, thrice, And others that she sang and had no fear. And some that there was neither song nor cry, But only thunder and the lashing rain.
Howbeit, in the morning men rose up, Perplexed with horror, crowding to the Shrine. And when Er-Heb was gathered at the doors The Priests made lamentation and passed in To a strange Temple and a God they feared But knew not.
From the crevices the grass Had thrust the altar-slabs apart, the walls Were gray with stains unclean, the roof-beams swelled With many-coloured growth of rottenness, And lichen veiled the Image of Taman In leprosy. The Basin of the Blood Above the altar held the morning sun: A winking ruby on its heart: below, Face hid in hands, the maid Bisesa lay.
Er-Heb beyond the Hills of Ao-Safai Bears witness to the truth, and Ao-Safai Hath told the men of Gorukh. Thence the tale Comes westward o'er the peaks to India.
Love and Death once ceased their strife At the Tavern of Man's Life. Called for wine, and threw — alas! — Each his quiver on the grass. When the bout was o'er they found Mingled arrows strewed the ground. Hastily they gathered then Each the loves and lives of men. Ah, the fateful dawn deceived! Mingled arrows each one sheaved; Death's dread armoury was stored With the shafts he most abhorred; Love's light quiver groaned beneath Venom-headed darts of Death.
Thus it was they wrought our woe At the Tavern long ago. Tell me, do our masters know, Loosing blindly as they fly, Old men love while young men die?
THE GIFT OF THE SEA
The dead child lay in the shroud, And the widow watched beside; And her mother slept, and the Channel swept The gale in the teeth of the tide.
But the mother laughed at all. "I have lost my man in the sea, And the child is dead. Be still," she said, "What more can ye do to me?"
The widow watched the dead, And the candle guttered low, And she tried to sing the Passing Song That bids the poor soul go.
And "Mary take you now," she sang, "That lay against my heart." And "Mary smooth your crib to-night," But she could not say "Depart."
Then came a cry from the sea, But the sea-rime blinded the glass, And "Heard ye nothing, mother?" she said, "'Tis the child that waits to pass."
And the nodding mother sighed. "'Tis a lambing ewe in the whin, For why should the christened soul cry out That never knew of sin?"
"O feet I have held in my hand, O hands at my heart to catch, How should they know the road to go, And how should they lift the latch?"
They laid a sheet to the door, With the little quilt atop, That it might not hurt from the cold or the dirt, But the crying would not stop.
The widow lifted the latch And strained her eyes to see, And opened the door on the bitter shore To let the soul go free.
There was neither glimmer nor ghost, There was neither spirit nor spark, And "Heard ye nothing, mother?" she said, "'Tis crying for me in the dark."
And the nodding mother sighed: "'Tis sorrow makes ye dull; Have ye yet to learn the cry of the tern, Or the wail of the wind-blown gull?"
"The terns are blown inland, The gray gull follows the plough. 'Twas never a bird, the voice I heard, O mother, I hear it now!"
"Lie still, dear lamb, lie still; The child is passed from harm, 'Tis the ache in your breast that broke your rest, And the feel of an empty arm."
She put her mother aside, "In Mary's name let be! For the peace of my soul I must go," she said, And she went to the calling sea.
In the heel of the wind-bit pier, Where the twisted weed was piled, She came to the life she had missed by an hour, For she came to a little child.
She laid it into her breast, And back to her mother she came, But it would not feed and it would not heed, Though she gave it her own child's name.
And the dead child dripped on her breast, And her own in the shroud lay stark; And "God forgive us, mother," she said, "We let it die in the dark!"
EVARRA AND HIS GODS
Read here: This is the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea. Because the city gave him of her gold, Because the caravans brought turquoises, Because his life was sheltered by the King, So that no man should maim him, none should steal, Or break his rest with babble in the streets When he was weary after toil, he made An image of his God in gold and pearl, With turquoise diadem and human eyes, A wonder in the sunshine, known afar, And worshipped by the King; but, drunk with pride, Because the city bowed to him for God, He wrote above the shrine: "Thus Gods are made, And whoso makes them otherwise shall die." And all the city praised him. . . . Then he died.
Read here the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea. Because the city had no wealth to give, Because the caravans were spoiled afar, Because his life was threatened by the King, So that all men despised him in the streets, He hewed the living rock, with sweat and tears, And reared a God against the morning-gold, A terror in the sunshine, seen afar, And worshipped by the King; but, drunk with pride, Because the city fawned to bring him back, He carved upon the plinth: "Thus Gods are made, And whoso makes them otherwise shall die." And all the people praised him. . . . Then he died.
Read here the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea. Because he lived among a simple folk, Because his village was between the hills, Because he smeared his cheeks with blood of ewes, He cut an idol from a fallen pine, Smeared blood upon its cheeks, and wedged a shell Above its brows for eyes, and gave it hair Of trailing moss, and plaited straw for crown. And all the village praised him for this craft, And brought him butter, honey, milk, and curds. Wherefore, because the shoutings drove him mad, He scratched upon that log: "Thus Gods are made, And whoso makes them otherwise shall die." And all the people praised him. . . . Then he died.
Read here the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea. Because his God decreed one clot of blood Should swerve one hair's-breadth from the pulse's path, And chafe his brain, Evarra mowed alone, Rag-wrapped, among the cattle in the fields, Counting his fingers, jesting with the trees, And mocking at the mist, until his God Drove him to labour. Out of dung and horns Dropped in the mire he made a monstrous God, Abhorrent, shapeless, crowned with plantain tufts, And when the cattle lowed at twilight-time, He dreamed it was the clamour of lost crowds, And howled among the beasts: "Thus Gods are made, And whoso makes them otherwise shall die." Thereat the cattle bellowed. . . . Then he died.
Yet at the last he came to Paradise, And found his own four Gods, and that he wrote; And marvelled, being very near to God, What oaf on earth had made his toil God's law, Till God said mocking: "Mock not. These be thine." Then cried Evarra: "I have sinned!" — "Not so. If thou hadst written otherwise, thy Gods Had rested in the mountain and the mine, And I were poorer by four wondrous Gods, And thy more wondrous law, Evarra. Thine, Servant of shouting crowds and lowing kine." Thereat, with laughing mouth, but tear-wet eyes, Evarra cast his Gods from Paradise.
This is the story of Evarra — man — Maker of Gods in lands beyond the sea.
THE CONUNDRUM OF THE WORKSHOPS
When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden's green and gold, Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould; And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart, Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, "It's pretty, but is it Art?"
Wherefore he called to his wife, and fled to fashion his work anew — The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review; And he left his lore to the use of his sons — and that was a glorious gain When the Devil chuckled "Is it Art?" in the ear of the branded Cain.
They fought and they talked in the North and the South, they talked and they fought in the West, Till the waters rose on the pitiful land, and the poor Red Clay had rest — Had rest till that dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start, And the Devil bubbled below the keel: "It's human, but is it Art?"
They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart, Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: "It's striking, but is it Art?" The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung, While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue.
The tale is as old as the Eden Tree — and new as the new-cut tooth — For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth; And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart, The Devil drum on the darkened pane: "You did it, but was it Art?"
We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg, We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yelk of an addled egg, We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart; But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "It's clever, but is it Art?"
When the flicker of London sun falls faint on the Club-room's green and gold, The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mould — They scratch with their pens in the mould of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start, For the Devil mutters behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it Art?"
Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow, And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago, And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through, By the favour of God we might know as much — as our father Adam knew!
THE LEGEND OF EVIL
This is the sorrowful story Told when the twilight fails And the monkeys walk together Holding their neighbours' tails: —
"Our fathers lived in the forest, Foolish people were they, They went down to the cornland To teach the farmers to play.
"Our fathers frisked in the millet, Our fathers skipped in the wheat, Our fathers hung from the branches, Our fathers danced in the street.
"Then came the terrible farmers, Nothing of play they knew, Only. . .they caught our fathers And set them to labour too!
"Set them to work in the cornland With ploughs and sickles and flails, Put them in mud-walled prisons And — cut off their beautiful tails!
"Now, we can watch our fathers, Sullen and bowed and old, Stooping over the millet, Sharing the silly mould,
"Driving a foolish furrow, Mending a muddy yoke, Sleeping in mud-walled prisons, Steeping their food in smoke.
"We may not speak to our fathers, For if the farmers knew They would come up to the forest And set us to labour too."
This is the horrible story Told as the twilight fails And the monkeys walk together Holding their kinsmen's tails.
'Twas when the rain fell steady an' the Ark was pitched an' ready, That Noah got his orders for to take the bastes below; He dragged them all together by the horn an' hide an' feather, An' all excipt the Donkey was agreeable to go.
Thin Noah spoke him fairly, thin talked to him sevarely, An' thin he cursed him squarely to the glory av the Lord: — "Divil take the ass that bred you, and the greater ass that fed you — Divil go wid you, ye spalpeen!" an' the Donkey went aboard.
But the wind was always failin', an' 'twas most onaisy sailin', An' the ladies in the cabin couldn't stand the stable air; An' the bastes betwuxt the hatches, they tuk an' died in batches, Till Noah said: — "There's wan av us that hasn't paid his fare!"
For he heard a flusteration 'mid the bastes av all creation — The trumpetin' av elephints an' bellowin' av whales; An' he saw forninst the windy whin he wint to stop the shindy The Divil wid a stable-fork bedivillin' their tails.
The Divil cursed outrageous, but Noah said umbrageous: — "To what am I indebted for this tenant-right invasion?" An' the Divil gave for answer: — "Evict me if you can, sir, For I came in wid the Donkey — on Your Honour's invitation."
THE ENGLISH FLAG
Above the portico a flag-staff, bearing the Union Jack, remained fluttering in the flames for some time, but ultimately when it fell the crowds rent the air with shouts, and seemed to see significance in the incident. — DAILY PAPERS.
Winds of the World, give answer! They are whimpering to and fro — And what should they know of England who only England know? — The poor little street-bred people that vapour and fume and brag, They are lifting their heads in the stillness to yelp at the English Flag!
Must we borrow a clout from the Boer — to plaster anew with dirt? An Irish liar's bandage, or an English coward's shirt? We may not speak of England; her Flag's to sell or share. What is the Flag of England? Winds of the World, declare!
The North Wind blew: — "From Bergen my steel-shod vanguards go; I chase your lazy whalers home from the Disko floe; By the great North Lights above me I work the will of God, And the liner splits on the ice-field or the Dogger fills with cod.
"I barred my gates with iron, I shuttered my doors with flame, Because to force my ramparts your nutshell navies came; I took the sun from their presence, I cut them down with my blast, And they died, but the Flag of England blew free ere the spirit passed.
"The lean white bear hath seen it in the long, long Arctic night, The musk-ox knows the standard that flouts the Northern Light: What is the Flag of England? Ye have but my bergs to dare, Ye have but my drifts to conquer. Go forth, for it is there!"
The South Wind sighed: — "From the Virgins my mid-sea course was ta'en Over a thousand islands lost in an idle main, Where the sea-egg flames on the coral and the long-backed breakers croon Their endless ocean legends to the lazy, locked lagoon.
"Strayed amid lonely islets, mazed amid outer keys, I waked the palms to laughter — I tossed the scud in the breeze — Never was isle so little, never was sea so lone, But over the scud and the palm-trees an English flag was flown.
"I have wrenched it free from the halliard to hang for a wisp on the Horn; I have chased it north to the Lizard — ribboned and rolled and torn; I have spread its fold o'er the dying, adrift in a hopeless sea; I have hurled it swift on the slaver, and seen the slave set free.
"My basking sunfish know it, and wheeling albatross, Where the lone wave fills with fire beneath the Southern Cross. What is the Flag of England? Ye have but my reefs to dare, Ye have but my seas to furrow. Go forth, for it is there!"
The East Wind roared: — "From the Kuriles, the Bitter Seas, I come, And me men call the Home-Wind, for I bring the English home. Look — look well to your shipping! By the breath of my mad typhoon I swept your close-packed Praya and beached your best at Kowloon!
"The reeling junks behind me and the racing seas before, I raped your richest roadstead — I plundered Singapore! I set my hand on the Hoogli; as a hooded snake she rose, And I flung your stoutest steamers to roost with the startled crows.
"Never the lotus closes, never the wild-fowl wake, But a soul goes out on the East Wind that died for England's sake — Man or woman or suckling, mother or bride or maid — Because on the bones of the English the English Flag is stayed.
"The desert-dust hath dimmed it, the flying wild-ass knows, The scared white leopard winds it across the taintless snows. What is the Flag of England? Ye have but my sun to dare, Ye have but my sands to travel. Go forth, for it is there!"
The West Wind called: — "In squadrons the thoughtless galleons fly That bear the wheat and cattle lest street-bred people die. They make my might their porter, they make my house their path, Till I loose my neck from their rudder and whelm them all in my wrath.
"I draw the gliding fog-bank as a snake is drawn from the hole, They bellow one to the other, the frighted ship-bells toll, For day is a drifting terror till I raise the shroud with my breath, And they see strange bows above them and the two go locked to death.
"But whether in calm or wrack-wreath, whether by dark or day, I heave them whole to the conger or rip their plates away, First of the scattered legions, under a shrieking sky, Dipping between the rollers, the English Flag goes by.
"The dead dumb fog hath wrapped it — the frozen dews have kissed — The naked stars have seen it, a fellow-star in the mist. What is the Flag of England? Ye have but my breath to dare, Ye have but my waves to conquer. Go forth, for it is there!"
(In Memory of a Commission)
Help for a patriot distressed, a spotless spirit hurt, Help for an honourable clan sore trampled in the dirt! From Queenstown Bay to Donegal, O listen to my song, The honourable gentlemen have suffered grievous wrong.
Their noble names were mentioned — O the burning black disgrace! — By a brutal Saxon paper in an Irish shooting-case; They sat upon it for a year, then steeled their heart to brave it, And "coruscating innocence" the learned Judges gave it.
Bear witness, Heaven, of that grim crime beneath the surgeon's knife, The honourable gentlemen deplored the loss of life! Bear witness of those chanting choirs that burk and shirk and snigger, No man laid hand upon the knife or finger to the trigger!
Cleared in the face of all mankind beneath the winking skies, Like ph]oenixes from Ph]oenix Park (and what lay there) they rise! Go shout it to the emerald seas — give word to Erin now, Her honourable gentlemen are cleared — and this is how: —
They only paid the Moonlighter his cattle-hocking price, They only helped the murderer with counsel's best advice, But — sure it keeps their honour white — the learned Court believes They never gave a piece of plate to murderers and thieves.
They never told the ramping crowd to card a woman's hide, They never marked a man for death — what fault of theirs he died? — They only said "intimidate", and talked and went away — By God, the boys that did the work were braver men than they!
Their sin it was that fed the fire — small blame to them that heard — The "bhoys" get drunk on rhetoric, and madden at a word — They knew whom they were talking at, if they were Irish too, The gentlemen that lied in Court, they knew, and well they knew.
They only took the Judas-gold from Fenians out of jail, They only fawned for dollars on the blood-dyed Clanna-Gael. If black is black or white is white, in black and white it's down, They're only traitors to the Queen and rebels to the Crown.
"Cleared", honourable gentlemen! Be thankful it's no more: — The widow's curse is on your house, the dead are at your door. On you the shame of open shame, on you from North to South The hand of every honest man flat-heeled across your mouth.
"Less black than we were painted"? — Faith, no word of black was said; The lightest touch was human blood, and that, you know, runs red. It's sticking to your fist to-day for all your sneer and scoff, And by the Judge's well-weighed word you cannot wipe it off.
Hold up those hands of innocence — go, scare your sheep together, The blundering, tripping tups that bleat behind the old bell-wether; And if they snuff the taint and break to find another pen, Tell them it's tar that glistens so, and daub them yours again!
"The charge is old"? — As old as Cain — as fresh as yesterday; Old as the Ten Commandments — have ye talked those laws away? If words are words, or death is death, or powder sends the ball, You spoke the words that sped the shot — the curse be on you all.
"Our friends believe"? — Of course they do — as sheltered women may; But have they seen the shrieking soul ripped from the quivering clay? They! — If their own front door is shut, they'll swear the whole world's warm; What do they know of dread of death or hanging fear of harm?
The secret half a county keeps, the whisper in the lane, The shriek that tells the shot went home behind the broken pane, The dry blood crisping in the sun that scares the honest bees, And shows the "bhoys" have heard your talk — what do they know of these?
But you — you know — ay, ten times more; the secrets of the dead, Black terror on the country-side by word and whisper bred, The mangled stallion's scream at night, the tail-cropped heifer's low. Who set the whisper going first? You know, and well you know!
My soul! I'd sooner lie in jail for murder plain and straight, Pure crime I'd done with my own hand for money, lust, or hate, Than take a seat in Parliament by fellow-felons cheered, While one of those "not provens" proved me cleared as you are cleared.
Cleared — you that "lost" the League accounts — go, guard our honour still, Go, help to make our country's laws that broke God's law at will — One hand stuck out behind the back, to signal "strike again"; The other on your dress-shirt-front to show your heart is clane.
If black is black or white is white, in black and white it's down, You're only traitors to the Queen and rebels to the Crown. If print is print or words are words, the learned Court perpends: — We are not ruled by murderers, but only — by their friends.
AN IMPERIAL RESCRIPT
Now this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser decreed, To ease the strong of their burden, to help the weak in their need, He sent a word to the peoples, who struggle, and pant, and sweat, That the straw might be counted fairly and the tally of bricks be set.
The Lords of Their Hands assembled; from the East and the West they drew — Baltimore, Lille, and Essen, Brummagem, Clyde, and Crewe. And some were black from the furnace, and some were brown from the soil, And some were blue from the dye-vat; but all were wearied of toil.
And the young King said: — "I have found it, the road to the rest ye seek: The strong shall wait for the weary, the hale shall halt for the weak; With the even tramp of an army where no man breaks from the line, Ye shall march to peace and plenty in the bond of brotherhood — sign!"
The paper lay on the table, the strong heads bowed thereby, And a wail went up from the peoples: — "Ay, sign — give rest, for we die!" A hand was stretched to the goose-quill, a fist was cramped to scrawl, When — the laugh of a blue-eyed maiden ran clear through the council-hall.
And each one heard Her laughing as each one saw Her plain — Saidie, Mimi, or Olga, Gretchen, or Mary Jane. And the Spirit of Man that is in Him to the light of the vision woke; And the men drew back from the paper, as a Yankee delegate spoke: —
"There's a girl in Jersey City who works on the telephone; We're going to hitch our horses and dig for a house of our own, With gas and water connections, and steam-heat through to the top; And, W. Hohenzollern, I guess I shall work till I drop."
And an English delegate thundered: — "The weak an' the lame be blowed! I've a berth in the Sou'-West workshops, a home in the Wandsworth Road; And till the 'sociation has footed my buryin' bill, I work for the kids an' the missus. Pull up? I be damned if I will!"
And over the German benches the bearded whisper ran: — "Lager, der girls und der dollars, dey makes or dey breaks a man. If Schmitt haf collared der dollars, he collars der girl deremit; But if Schmitt bust in der pizness, we collars der girl from Schmitt."
They passed one resolution: — "Your sub-committee believe You can lighten the curse of Adam when you've lightened the curse of Eve. But till we are built like angels, with hammer and chisel and pen, We will work for ourself and a woman, for ever and ever, amen."
Now this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser held — The day that they razored the Grindstone, the day that the Cat was belled, The day of the Figs from Thistles, the day of the Twisted Sands, The day that the laugh of a maiden made light of the Lords of Their Hands.
Now Tomlinson gave up the ghost in his house in Berkeley Square, And a Spirit came to his bedside and gripped him by the hair — A Spirit gripped him by the hair and carried him far away, Till he heard as the roar of a rain-fed ford the roar of the Milky Way: Till he heard the roar of the Milky Way die down and drone and cease, And they came to the Gate within the Wall where Peter holds the keys. "Stand up, stand up now, Tomlinson, and answer loud and high The good that ye did for the sake of men or ever ye came to die — The good that ye did for the sake of men in little earth so lone!" And the naked soul of Tomlinson grew white as a rain-washed bone. "O I have a friend on earth," he said, "that was my priest and guide, And well would he answer all for me if he were by my side." — "For that ye strove in neighbour-love it shall be written fair, But now ye wait at Heaven's Gate and not in Berkeley Square: Though we called your friend from his bed this night, he could not speak for you, For the race is run by one and one and never by two and two." Then Tomlinson looked up and down, and little gain was there, For the naked stars grinned overhead, and he saw that his soul was bare: The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife, And Tomlinson took up his tale and spoke of his good in life. "This I have read in a book," he said, "and that was told to me, And this I have thought that another man thought of a Prince in Muscovy." The good souls flocked like homing doves and bade him clear the path, And Peter twirled the jangling keys in weariness and wrath. "Ye have read, ye have heard, ye have thought," he said, "and the tale is yet to run: By the worth of the body that once ye had, give answer — what ha' ye done?" Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and little good it bore, For the Darkness stayed at his shoulder-blade and Heaven's Gate before: — "O this I have felt, and this I have guessed, and this I have heard men say, And this they wrote that another man wrote of a carl in Norroway." — "Ye have read, ye have felt, ye have guessed, good lack! Ye have hampered Heaven's Gate; There's little room between the stars in idleness to prate! O none may reach by hired speech of neighbour, priest, and kin Through borrowed deed to God's good meed that lies so fair within; Get hence, get hence to the Lord of Wrong, for doom has yet to run, And. . .the faith that ye share with Berkeley Square uphold you, Tomlinson!"
. . . . .
The Spirit gripped him by the hair, and sun by sun they fell Till they came to the belt of Naughty Stars that rim the mouth of Hell: The first are red with pride and wrath, the next are white with pain, But the third are black with clinkered sin that cannot burn again: They may hold their path, they may leave their path, with never a soul to mark, They may burn or freeze, but they must not cease in the Scorn of the Outer Dark. The Wind that blows between the worlds, it nipped him to the bone, And he yearned to the flare of Hell-Gate there as the light of his own hearth-stone. The Devil he sat behind the bars, where the desperate legions drew, But he caught the hasting Tomlinson and would not let him through. "Wot ye the price of good pit-coal that I must pay?" said he, "That ye rank yoursel' so fit for Hell and ask no leave of me? I am all o'er-sib to Adam's breed that ye should give me scorn, For I strove with God for your First Father the day that he was born. Sit down, sit down upon the slag, and answer loud and high The harm that ye did to the Sons of Men or ever you came to die." And Tomlinson looked up and up, and saw against the night The belly of a tortured star blood-red in Hell-Mouth light; And Tomlinson looked down and down, and saw beneath his feet The frontlet of a tortured star milk-white in Hell-Mouth heat. "O I had a love on earth," said he, "that kissed me to my fall, And if ye would call my love to me I know she would answer all." — "All that ye did in love forbid it shall be written fair, But now ye wait at Hell-Mouth Gate and not in Berkeley Square: Though we whistled your love from her bed to-night, I trow she would not run, For the sin ye do by two and two ye must pay for one by one!" The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife, And Tomlinson took up the tale and spoke of his sin in life: — "Once I ha' laughed at the power of Love and twice at the grip of the Grave, And thrice I ha' patted my God on the head that men might call me brave." The Devil he blew on a brandered soul and set it aside to cool: — "Do ye think I would waste my good pit-coal on the hide of a brain-sick fool? I see no worth in the hobnailed mirth or the jolthead jest ye did That I should waken my gentlemen that are sleeping three on a grid." Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and there was little grace, For Hell-Gate filled the houseless Soul with the Fear of Naked Space. "Nay, this I ha' heard," quo' Tomlinson, "and this was noised abroad, And this I ha' got from a Belgian book on the word of a dead French lord." — "Ye ha' heard, ye ha' read, ye ha' got, good lack! and the tale begins afresh — Have ye sinned one sin for the pride o' the eye or the sinful lust of the flesh?" Then Tomlinson he gripped the bars and yammered, "Let me in — For I mind that I borrowed my neighbour's wife to sin the deadly sin." The Devil he grinned behind the bars, and banked the fires high: "Did ye read of that sin in a book?" said he; and Tomlinson said, "Ay!" The Devil he blew upon his nails, and the little devils ran, And he said: "Go husk this whimpering thief that comes in the guise of a man: Winnow him out 'twixt star and star, and sieve his proper worth: There's sore decline in Adam's line if this be spawn of earth." Empusa's crew, so naked-new they may not face the fire, But weep that they bin too small to sin to the height of their desire, Over the coal they chased the Soul, and racked it all abroad, As children rifle a caddis-case or the raven's foolish hoard. And back they came with the tattered Thing, as children after play, And they said: "The soul that he got from God he has bartered clean away. We have threshed a stook of print and book, and winnowed a chattering wind And many a soul wherefrom he stole, but his we cannot find: We have handled him, we have dandled him, we have seared him to the bone, And sure if tooth and nail show truth he has no soul of his own." The Devil he bowed his head on his breast and rumbled deep and low: — "I'm all o'er-sib to Adam's breed that I should bid him go. Yet close we lie, and deep we lie, and if I gave him place, My gentlemen that are so proud would flout me to my face; They'd call my house a common stews and me a careless host, And — I would not anger my gentlemen for the sake of a shiftless ghost." The Devil he looked at the mangled Soul that prayed to feel the flame, And he thought of Holy Charity, but he thought of his own good name: — "Now ye could haste my coal to waste, and sit ye down to fry: Did ye think of that theft for yourself?" said he; and Tomlinson said, "Ay!" The Devil he blew an outward breath, for his heart was free from care: — "Ye have scarce the soul of a louse," he said, "but the roots of sin are there, And for that sin should ye come in were I the lord alone. But sinful pride has rule inside — and mightier than my own. Honour and Wit, fore-damned they sit, to each his priest and whore: Nay, scarce I dare myself go there, and you they'd torture sore. Ye are neither spirit nor spirk," he said; "ye are neither book nor brute — Go, get ye back to the flesh again for the sake of Man's repute. I'm all o'er-sib to Adam's breed that I should mock your pain, But look that ye win to worthier sin ere ye come back again. Get hence, the hearse is at your door — the grim black stallions wait — They bear your clay to place to-day. Speed, lest ye come too late! Go back to Earth with a lip unsealed — go back with an open eye, And carry my word to the Sons of Men or ever ye come to die: That the sin they do by two and two they must pay for one by one — And. . .the God that you took from a printed book be with you, Tomlinson!"
L'ENVOI TO "LIFE'S HANDICAP"
My new-cut ashlar takes the light Where crimson-blank the windows flare; By my own work, before the night, Great Overseer I make my prayer.
If there be good in that I wrought, Thy hand compelled it, Master, Thine; Where I have failed to meet Thy thought I know, through Thee, the blame is mine.
One instant's toil to Thee denied Stands all Eternity's offence, Of that I did with Thee to guide To Thee, through Thee, be excellence.
Who, lest all thought of Eden fade, Bring'st Eden to the craftsman's brain, Godlike to muse o'er his own trade And Manlike stand with God again.
The depth and dream of my desire, The bitter paths wherein I stray, Thou knowest Who hast made the Fire, Thou knowest Who hast made the Clay!
One stone the more swings to her place In that dread Temple of Thy Worth — It is enough that through Thy grace I saw naught common on Thy earth.
Take not that vision from my ken; Oh whatsoe'er may spoil or speed, Help me to need no aid from men That I may help such men as need!
There's a whisper down the field where the year has shot her yield, And the ricks stand gray to the sun, Singing: — "Over then, come over, for the bee has quit the clover, And your English summer's done." You have heard the beat of the off-shore wind, And the thresh of the deep-sea rain; You have heard the song — how long! how long? Pull out on the trail again!
Ha' done with the Tents of Shem, dear lass, We've seen the seasons through, And it's time to turn on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail, Pull out, pull out, on the Long Trail — the trail that is always new.
It's North you may run to the rime-ringed sun, Or South to the blind Horn's hate; Or East all the way into Mississippi Bay, Or West to the Golden Gate; Where the blindest bluffs hold good, dear lass, And the wildest tales are true, And the men bulk big on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail, And life runs large on the Long Trail — the trail that is always new.
The days are sick and cold, and the skies are gray and old, And the twice-breathed airs blow damp; And I'd sell my tired soul for the bucking beam-sea roll Of a black Bilbao tramp; With her load-line over her hatch, dear lass, And a drunken Dago crew, And her nose held down on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail From Cadiz Bar on the Long Trail — the trail that is always new.
There be triple ways to take, of the eagle or the snake, Or the way of a man with a maid; But the fairest way to me is a ship's upon the sea In the heel of the North-East Trade. Can you hear the crash on her bows, dear lass, And the drum of the racing screw, As she ships it green on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail, As she lifts and 'scends on the Long Trail — the trail that is always new?
See the shaking funnels roar, with the Peter at the fore, And the fenders grind and heave, And the derricks clack and grate, as the tackle hooks the crate, And the fall-rope whines through the sheave; It's "Gang-plank up and in," dear lass, It's "Hawsers warp her through!" And it's "All clear aft" on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail, We're backing down on the Long Trail — the trail that is always new.
O the mutter overside, when the port-fog holds us tied, And the sirens hoot their dread! When foot by foot we creep o'er the hueless viewless deep To the sob of the questing lead! It's down by the Lower Hope, dear lass, With the Gunfleet Sands in view, Till the Mouse swings green on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail, And the Gull Light lifts on the Long Trail — the trail that is always new.
O the blazing tropic night, when the wake's a welt of light That holds the hot sky tame, And the steady fore-foot snores through the planet-powdered floors Where the scared whale flukes in flame! Her plates are scarred by the sun, dear lass, And her ropes are taut with the dew, For we're booming down on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail, We're sagging south on the Long Trail — the trail that is always new.
Then home, get her home, where the drunken rollers comb, And the shouting seas drive by, And the engines stamp and ring, and the wet bows reel and swing, And the Southern Cross rides high! Yes, the old lost stars wheel back, dear lass, That blaze in the velvet blue. They're all old friends on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail, They're God's own guides on the Long Trail — the trail that is always new.
Fly forward, O my heart, from the Foreland to the Start — We're steaming all-too slow, And it's twenty thousand mile to our little lazy isle Where the trumpet-orchids blow! You have heard the call of the off-shore wind, And the voice of the deep-sea rain; You have heard the song — how long! how long? Pull out on the trail again!
The Lord knows what we may find, dear lass, And The Deuce knows what we may do — But we're back once more on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail, We're down, hull down on the Long Trail — the trail that is always new.
THE SEVEN SEAS
To the City of Bombay
The Cities are full of pride, Challenging each to each — This from her mountain-side, That from her burthened beach.
They count their ships full tale — Their corn and oil and wine, Derrick and loom and bale, And rampart's gun-flecked line; City by City they hail: "Hast aught to match with mine?"
And the men that breed from them They traffic up and down, But cling to their cities' hem As a child to their mother's gown.
When they talk with the stranger bands, Dazed and newly alone; When they walk in the stranger lands, By roaring streets unknown; Blessing her where she stands For strength above their own.
(On high to hold her fame That stands all fame beyond, By oath to back the same, Most faithful-foolish-fond; Making her mere-breathed name Their bond upon their bond.)
So thank I God my birth Fell not in isles aside — Waste headlands of the earth, Or warring tribes untried — But that she lent me worth And gave me right to pride.
Surely in toil or fray Under an alien sky, Comfort it is to say: "Of no mean city am I!"
(Neither by service nor fee Come I to mine estate — Mother of Cities to me, For I was born in her gate, Between the palms and the sea, Where the world-end steamers wait.)
Now for this debt I owe, And for her far-borne cheer Must I make haste and go With tribute to her pier.
And she shall touch and remit After the use of kings (Orderly, ancient, fit) My deep-sea plunderings, And purchase in all lands. And this we do for a sign Her power is over mine, And mine I hold at her hands!
THE SEVEN SEAS
A SONG OF THE ENGLISH
Fair is our lot — O goodly is our heritage! (Humble ye, my people, and be fearful in your mirth!) For the Lord our God Most High He hath made the deep as dry, He hath smote for us a pathway to the ends of all the Earth!
Yea, though we sinned — and our rulers went from righteousness — Deep in all dishonour though we stained our garments' hem. Oh be ye not dismayed, Though we stumbled and we strayed, We were led by evil counsellors — the Lord shall deal with them!
Hold ye the Faith — the Faith our Fathers seal]ed us; Whoring not with visions — overwise and overstale. Except ye pay the Lord Single heart and single sword, Of your children in their bondage shall He ask them treble-tale!
Keep ye the Law — be swift in all obedience — Clear the land of evil, drive the road and bridge the ford. Make ye sure to each his own That he reap where he hath sown; By the peace among Our peoples let men know we serve the Lord!
. . . . .
Hear now a song — a song of broken interludes — A song of little cunning; of a singer nothing worth. Through the naked words and mean May ye see the truth between As the singer knew and touched it in the ends of all the Earth!
The Coastwise Lights
Our brows are bound with spindrift and the weed is on our knees; Our loins are battered 'neath us by the swinging, smoking seas. From reef and rock and skerry — over headland, ness, and voe — The Coastwise Lights of England watch the ships of England go!
Through the endless summer evenings, on the lineless, level floors; Through the yelling Channel tempest when the siren hoots and roars — By day the dipping house-flag and by night the rocket's trail — As the sheep that graze behind us so we know them where they hail.
We bridge across the dark and bid the helmsman have a care, The flash that wheeling inland wakes his sleeping wife to prayer; From our vexed eyries, head to gale, we bind in burning chains The lover from the sea-rim drawn — his love in English lanes.
We greet the clippers wing-and-wing that race the Southern wool; We warn the crawling cargo-tanks of Bremen, Leith, and Hull; To each and all our equal lamp at peril of the sea — The white wall-sided war-ships or the whalers of Dundee!
Come up, come in from Eastward, from the guardports of the Morn! Beat up, beat in from Southerly, O gipsies of the Horn! Swift shuttles of an Empire's loom that weave us, main to main, The Coastwise Lights of England give you welcome back again!
Go, get you gone up-Channel with the sea-crust on your plates; Go, get you into London with the burden of your freights! Haste, for they talk of Empire there, and say, if any seek, The Lights of England sent you and by silence shall ye speak!
The Song of the Dead
Hear now the Song of the Dead — in the North by the torn berg-edges — They that look still to the Pole, asleep by their hide-stripped sledges. Song of the Dead in the South — in the sun by their skeleton horses, Where the warrigal whimpers and bays through the dust of the sear river-courses.
Song of the Dead in the East — in the heat-rotted jungle hollows, Where the dog-ape barks in the kloof — in the brake of the buffalo-wallows. Song of the Dead in the West — in the Barrens, the waste that betrayed them, Where the wolverene tumbles their packs from the camp and the grave-mound they made them; Hear now the Song of the Dead!
We were dreamers, dreaming greatly, in the man-stifled town; We yearned beyond the sky-line where the strange roads go down. Came the Whisper, came the Vision, came the Power with the Need, Till the Soul that is not man's soul was lent us to lead. As the deer breaks — as the steer breaks — from the herd where they graze, In the faith of little children we went on our ways. Then the wood failed — then the food failed — then the last water dried — In the faith of little children we lay down and died. On the sand-drift — on the veldt-side — in the fern-scrub we lay, That our sons might follow after by the bones on the way. Follow after — follow after! We have watered the root, And the bud has come to blossom that ripens for fruit! Follow after — we are waiting, by the trails that we lost, For the sounds of many footsteps, for the tread of a host. Follow after — follow after — for the harvest is sown: By the bones about the wayside ye shall come to your own!
When Drake went down to the Horn And England was crowned thereby, 'Twixt seas unsailed and shores unhailed Our Lodge — our Lodge was born (And England was crowned thereby!)
Which never shall close again By day nor yet by night, While man shall take his life to stake At risk of shoal or main (By day nor yet by night).
But standeth even so As now we witness here, While men depart, of joyful heart, Adventure for to know (As now bear witness here!)
We have fed our sea for a thousand years And she calls us, still unfed, Though there's never a wave of all her waves But marks our English dead: We have strawed our best to the weed's unrest, To the shark and the sheering gull. If blood be the price of admiralty, Lord God, we ha' paid in full!
There's never a flood goes shoreward now But lifts a keel we manned; There's never an ebb goes seaward now But drops our dead on the sand — But slinks our dead on the sands forlore, From the Ducies to the Swin. If blood be the price of admiralty, If blood be the price of admiralty, Lord God, we ha' paid it in!
We must feed our sea for a thousand years, For that is our doom and pride, As it was when they sailed with the Golden Hind, Or the wreck that struck last tide — Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef Where the ghastly blue-lights flare. If blood be the price of admiralty, If blood be the price of admiralty, If blood be the price of admiralty, Lord God, we ha' bought it fair!
The Deep-Sea Cables
The wrecks dissolve above us; their dust drops down from afar — Down to the dark, to the utter dark, where the blind white sea-snakes are. There is no sound, no echo of sound, in the deserts of the deep, Or the great gray level plains of ooze where the shell-burred cables creep.
Here in the womb of the world — here on the tie-ribs of earth Words, and the words of men, flicker and flutter and beat — Warning, sorrow and gain, salutation and mirth — For a Power troubles the Still that has neither voice nor feet.
They have wakened the timeless Things; they have killed their father Time; Joining hands in the gloom, a league from the last of the sun. Hush! Men talk to-day o'er the waste of the ultimate slime, And a new Word runs between: whispering, "Let us be one!"
The Song of the Sons
One from the ends of the earth — gifts at an open door — Treason has much, but we, Mother, thy sons have more! From the whine of a dying man, from the snarl of a wolf-pack freed, Turn, and the world is thine. Mother, be proud of thy seed! Count, are we feeble or few? Hear, is our speech so rude? Look, are we poor in the land? Judge, are we men of The Blood?
Those that have stayed at thy knees, Mother, go call them in — We that were bred overseas wait and would speak with our kin. Not in the dark do we fight — haggle and flout and gibe; Selling our love for a price, loaning our hearts for a bribe. Gifts have we only to-day — Love without promise or fee — Hear, for thy children speak, from the uttermost parts of the sea!
The Song of the Cities
Royal and Dower-royal, I the Queen Fronting thy richest sea with richer hands — A thousand mills roar through me where I glean All races from all lands.
Me the Sea-captain loved, the River built, Wealth sought and Kings adventured life to hold. Hail, England! I am Asia — Power on silt, Death in my hands, but Gold!
Clive kissed me on the mouth and eyes and brow, Wonderful kisses, so that I became Crowned above Queens — a withered beldame now, Brooding on ancient fame.
Hail, Mother! Do they call me rich in trade? Little care I, but hear the shorn priest drone, And watch my silk-clad lovers, man by maid, Laugh 'neath my Shwe Dagon.
Hail, Mother! East and West must seek my aid Ere the spent gear may dare the ports afar. The second doorway of the wide world's trade Is mine to loose or bar.
Hail, Mother! Hold me fast; my Praya sleeps Under innumerable keels to-day. Yet guard (and landward), or to-morrow sweeps Thy war-ships down the bay!
Into the mist my guardian prows put forth, Behind the mist my virgin ramparts lie, The Warden of the Honour of the North, Sleepless and veiled am I!
QUEBEC AND MONTREAL
Peace is our portion. Yet a whisper rose, Foolish and causeless, half in jest, half hate. Now wake we and remember mighty blows, And, fearing no man, wait!
From East to West the circling word has passed, Till West is East beside our land-locked blue; From East to West the tested chain holds fast, The well-forged link rings true!
Hail! Snatched and bartered oft from hand to hand, I dream my dream, by rock and heath and pine, Of Empire to the northward. Ay, one land From Lion's Head to Line!
Greeting! Nor fear nor favour won us place, Got between greed of gold and dread of drouth, Loud-voiced and reckless as the wild tide-race That whips our harbour-mouth!
Greeting! My birth-stain have I turned to good; Forcing strong wills perverse to steadfastness: The first flush of the tropics in my blood, And at my feet Success!
The northern stirp beneath the southern skies — I build a Nation for an Empire's need, Suffer a little, and my land shall rise, Queen over lands indeed!
Man's love first found me; man's hate made me Hell; For my babes' sake I cleansed those infamies. Earnest for leave to live and labour well, God flung me peace and ease.
Last, loneliest, loveliest, exquisite, apart — On us, on us the unswerving season smiles, Who wonder 'mid our fern why men depart To seek the Happy Isles!
Truly ye come of The Blood; slower to bless than to ban; Little used to lie down at the bidding of any man. Flesh of the flesh that I bred, bone of the bone that I bare; Stark as your sons shall be — stern as your fathers were. Deeper than speech our love, stronger than life our tether, But we do not fall on the neck nor kiss when we come together. My arm is nothing weak, my strength is not gone by; Sons, I have borne many sons, but my dugs are not dry. Look, I have made ye a place and opened wide the doors, That ye may talk together, your Barons and Councillors — Wards of the Outer March, Lords of the Lower Seas, Ay, talk to your gray mother that bore you on her knees! — That ye may talk together, brother to brother's face — Thus for the good of your peoples — thus for the Pride of the Race. Also, we will make promise. So long as The Blood endures, I shall know that your good is mine: ye shall feel that my strength is yours: In the day of Armageddon, at the last great fight of all, That Our House stand together and the pillars do not fall. Draw now the threefold knot firm on the ninefold bands, And the Law that ye make shall be law after the rule of your lands. This for the waxen Heath, and that for the Wattle-bloom, This for the Maple-leaf, and that for the southern Broom. The Law that ye make shall be law and I do not press my will, Because ye are Sons of The Blood and call me Mother still. Now must ye speak to your kinsmen and they must speak to you, After the use of the English, in straight-flung words and few. Go to your work and be strong, halting not in your ways, Balking the end half-won for an instant dole of praise. Stand to your work and be wise — certain of sword and pen, Who are neither children nor Gods, but men in a world of men!
THE FIRST CHANTEY
Mine was the woman to me, darkling I found her; Haling her dumb from the camp, took her and bound her. Hot rose her tribe on our track ere I had proved her; Hearing her laugh in the gloom, greatly I loved her.
Swift through the forest we ran; none stood to guard us, Few were my people and far; then the flood barred us — Him we call Son of the Sea, sullen and swollen. Panting we waited the death, stealer and stolen.
Yet ere they came to my lance laid for the slaughter, Lightly she leaped to a log lapped in the water; Holding on high and apart skins that arrayed her, Called she the God of the Wind that He should aid her.
Life had the tree at that word (Praise we the Giver!) Otter-like left he the bank for the full river. Far fell their axes behind, flashing and ringing, Wonder was on me and fear — yet she was singing!
Low lay the land we had left. Now the blue bound us, Even the Floor of the Gods level around us. Whisper there was not, nor word, shadow nor showing, Till the light stirred on the deep, glowing and growing.
Then did He leap to His place flaring from under, He the Compeller, the Sun, bared to our wonder. Nay, not a league from our eyes blinded with gazing, Cleared He the gate of the world, huge and amazing!
This we beheld (and we live) — the Pit of the Burning! Then the God spoke to the tree for our returning; Back to the beach of our flight, fearless and slowly, Back to our slayers went he: but we were holy.
Men that were hot in that hunt, women that followed, Babes that were promised our bones, trembled and wallowed: Over the necks of the Tribe crouching and fawning — Prophet and priestess we came back from the dawning!
THE LAST CHANTEY
"And there was no more sea."
Thus said The Lord in the Vault above the Cherubim Calling to the Angels and the Souls in their degree: "Lo! Earth has passed away On the smoke of Judgment Day. That Our word may be established shall We gather up the sea?"
Loud sang the souls of the jolly, jolly mariners: "Plague upon the hurricane that made us furl and flee! But the war is done between us, In the deep the Lord hath seen us — Our bones we'll leave the barracout', and God may sink the sea!"
Then said the soul of Judas that betray]ed Him: "Lord, hast Thou forgotten Thy covenant with me? How once a year I go To cool me on the floe? And Ye take my day of mercy if Ye take away the sea!"
Then said the soul of the Angel of the Off-shore Wind: (He that bits the thunder when the bull-mouthed breakers flee): "I have watch and ward to keep O'er Thy wonders on the deep, And Ye take mine honour from me if Ye take away the sea!"
Loud sang the souls of the jolly, jolly mariners: "Nay, but we were angry, and a hasty folk are we! If we worked the ship together Till she foundered in foul weather, Are we babes that we should clamour for a vengeance on the sea?"
Then said the souls of the slaves that men threw overboard: "Kennelled in the picaroon a weary band were we; But Thy arm was strong to save, And it touched us on the wave, And we drowsed the long tides idle till Thy Trumpets tore the sea."
Then cried the soul of the stout Apostle Paul to God: "Once we frapped a ship, and she laboured woundily. There were fourteen score of these, And they blessed Thee on their knees, When they learned Thy Grace and Glory under Malta by the sea!"
Loud sang the souls of the jolly, jolly mariners, Plucking at their harps, and they plucked unhandily: "Our thumbs are rough and tarred, And the tune is something hard — May we lift a Deep-sea Chantey such as seamen use at sea?"
Then said the souls of the gentlemen-adventurers — Fettered wrist to bar all for red iniquity: "Ho, we revel in our chains O'er the sorrow that was Spain's; Heave or sink it, leave or drink it, we were masters of the sea!"
Up spake the soul of a gray Gothavn 'speckshioner — (He that led the flinching in the fleets of fair Dundee): "Oh, the ice-blink white and near, And the bowhead breaching clear! Will Ye whelm them all for wantonness that wallow in the sea?"
Loud sang the souls of the jolly, jolly mariners, Crying: "Under Heaven, here is neither lead nor lee! Must we sing for evermore On the windless, glassy floor? Take back your golden fiddles and we'll beat to open sea!"
Then stooped the Lord, and He called the good sea up to Him, And 'stablished his borders unto all eternity, That such as have no pleasure For to praise the Lord by measure, They may enter into galleons and serve Him on the sea.
Sun, wind, and cloud shall fail not from the face of it, Stinging, ringing spindrift, nor the fulmar flying free; And the ships shall go abroad To the Glory of the Lord Who heard the silly sailor-folk and gave them back their sea!
King Solomon drew merchantmen, Because of his desire For peacocks, apes, and ivory, From Tarshish unto Tyre: With cedars out of Lebanon Which Hiram rafted down, But we be only sailormen That use in London Town.
Coastwise — cross-seas — round the world and back again — Where the flaw shall head us or the full Trade suits — Plain-sail — storm-sail — lay your board and tack again — And that's the way we'll pay Paddy Doyle for his boots!
We bring no store of ingots, Of spice or precious stones, But that we have we gathered With sweat and aching bones: In flame beneath the tropics, In frost upon the floe, And jeopardy of every wind That does between them go.
And some we got by purchase, And some we had by trade, And some we found by courtesy Of pike and carronade — At midnight, 'mid-sea meetings, For charity to keep, And light the rolling homeward-bound That rode a foot too deep.
By sport of bitter weather We're walty, strained, and scarred From the kentledge on the kelson To the slings upon the yard. Six oceans had their will of us To carry all away — Our galley's in the Baltic, And our boom's in Mossel Bay!
We've floundered off the Texel, Awash with sodden deals, We've slipped from Valparaiso With the Norther at our heels: We've ratched beyond the Crossets That tusk the Southern Pole, And dipped our gunnels under To the dread Agulhas roll.
Beyond all outer charting We sailed where none have sailed, And saw the land-lights burning On islands none have hailed; Our hair stood up for wonder, But, when the night was done, There danced the deep to windward Blue-empty 'neath the sun!
Strange consorts rode beside us And brought us evil luck; The witch-fire climbed our channels, And flared on vane and truck: Till, through the red tornado, That lashed us nigh to blind, We saw The Dutchman plunging, Full canvas, head to wind!
We've heard the Midnight Leadsman That calls the black deep down — Ay, thrice we've heard The Swimmer, The Thing that may not drown. On frozen bunt and gasket The sleet-cloud drave her hosts, When, manned by more than signed with us, We passed the Isle o' Ghosts!
And north, amid the hummocks, A biscuit-toss below, We met the silent shallop That frighted whalers know; For, down a cruel ice-lane, That opened as he sped, We saw dead Henry Hudson Steer, North by West, his dead.
So dealt God's waters with us Beneath the roaring skies, So walked His signs and marvels All naked to our eyes: But we were heading homeward With trade to lose or make — Good Lord, they slipped behind us In the tailing of our wake!
Let go, let go the anchors; Now shamed at heart are we To bring so poor a cargo home That had for gift the sea! Let go the great bow-anchors — Ah, fools were we and blind — The worst we stored with utter toil, The best we left behind!
Coastwise — cross-seas — round the world and back again, Whither flaw shall fail us or the Trades drive down: Plain-sail — storm-sail — lay your board and tack again — And all to bring a cargo up to London Town!
Lord, Thou hast made this world below the shadow of a dream, An', taught by time, I tak' it so — exceptin' always Steam. From coupler-flange to spindle-guide I see Thy Hand, O God — Predestination in the stride o' yon connectin'-rod. John Calvin might ha' forged the same — enorrmous, certain, slow — Ay, wrought it in the furnace-flame — my "Institutio". I cannot get my sleep to-night; old bones are hard to please; I'll stand the middle watch up here — alone wi' God an' these My engines, after ninety days o' race an' rack an' strain Through all the seas of all Thy world, slam-bangin' home again. Slam-bang too much — they knock a wee — the crosshead-gibs are loose; But thirty thousand mile o' sea has gied them fair excuse. . . . Fine, clear an' dark — a full-draught breeze, wi' Ushant out o' sight, An' Ferguson relievin' Hay. Old girl, ye'll walk to-night! His wife's at Plymouth. . . . Seventy — One — Two — Three since he began — Three turns for Mistress Ferguson. . .and who's to blame the man? There's none at any port for me, by drivin' fast or slow, Since Elsie Campbell went to Thee, Lord, thirty years ago. (The year the Sarah Sands was burned. Oh roads we used to tread, Fra' Maryhill to Pollokshaws — fra' Govan to Parkhead!) Not but they're ceevil on the Board. Ye'll hear Sir Kenneth say: "Good-morrn, M'Andrew! Back again? An' how's your bilge to-day?" Miscallin' technicalities but handin' me my chair To drink Madeira wi' three Earls — the auld Fleet Engineer, That started as a boiler-whelp — when steam and he were low. I mind the time we used to serve a broken pipe wi' tow. Ten pound was all the pressure then — Eh! Eh! — a man wad drive; An' here, our workin' gauges give one hunder fifty-five! We're creepin' on wi' each new rig — less weight an' larger power: There'll be the loco-boiler next an' thirty knots an hour! Thirty an' more. What I ha' seen since ocean-steam began Leaves me no doot for the machine: but what about the man? The man that counts, wi' all his runs, one million mile o' sea: Four time the span from earth to moon. . . . How far, O Lord, from Thee? That wast beside him night an' day. Ye mind my first typhoon? It scoughed the skipper on his way to jock wi' the saloon. Three feet were on the stokehold-floor — just slappin' to an' fro — An' cast me on a furnace-door. I have the marks to show. Marks! I ha' marks o' more than burns — deep in my soul an' black, An' times like this, when things go smooth, my wickudness comes back. The sins o' four and forty years, all up an' down the seas, Clack an' repeat like valves half-fed. . . . Forgie's our trespasses. Nights when I'd come on deck to mark, wi' envy in my gaze, The couples kittlin' in the dark between the funnel stays; Years when I raked the ports wi' pride to fill my cup o' wrong — Judge not, O Lord, my steps aside at Gay Street in Hong-Kong! Blot out the wastrel hours of mine in sin when I abode — Jane Harrigan's an' Number Nine, The Reddick an' Grant Road! An' waur than all — my crownin' sin — rank blasphemy an' wild. I was not four and twenty then — Ye wadna judge a child? I'd seen the Tropics first that run — new fruit, new smells, new air — How could I tell — blind-fou wi' sun — the Deil was lurkin' there? By day like playhouse-scenes the shore slid past our sleepy eyes; By night those soft, lasceevious stars leered from those velvet skies, In port (we used no cargo-steam) I'd daunder down the streets — An ijjit grinnin' in a dream — for shells an' parrakeets, An' walkin'-sticks o' carved bamboo an' blowfish stuffed an' dried — Fillin' my bunk wi' rubbishry the Chief put overside. Till, off Sambawa Head, Ye mind, I heard a land-breeze ca', Milk-warm wi' breath o' spice an' bloom: "M'Andrew, come awa'!" Firm, clear an' low — no haste, no hate — the ghostly whisper went, Just statin' eevidential facts beyon' all argument: "Your mither's God's a graspin' deil, the shadow o' yoursel', Got out o' books by meenisters clean daft on Heaven an' Hell. They mak' Him in the Broomielaw, o' Glasgie cold an' dirt, A jealous, pridefu' fetich, lad, that's only strong to hurt, Ye'll not go back to Him again an' kiss His red-hot rod, But come wi' Us" (Now, who were They?) "an' know the Leevin' God, That does not kipper souls for sport or break a life in jest, But swells the ripenin' cocoanuts an' ripes the woman's breast." An' there it stopped: cut off: no more; that quiet, certain voice — For me, six months o' twenty-four, to leave or take at choice. 'Twas on me like a thunderclap — it racked me through an' through — Temptation past the show o' speech, unnameable an' new — The Sin against the Holy Ghost? . . . An' under all, our screw. That storm blew by but left behind her anchor-shiftin' swell, Thou knowest all my heart an' mind, Thou knowest, Lord, I fell. Third on the Mary Gloster then, and first that night in Hell! Yet was Thy hand beneath my head, about my feet Thy care — Fra' Deli clear to Torres Strait, the trial o' despair, But when we touched the Barrier Reef Thy answer to my prayer! We dared not run that sea by night but lay an' held our fire, An' I was drowsin' on the hatch — sick — sick wi' doubt an' tire: "Better the sight of eyes that see than wanderin' o' desire!" Ye mind that word? Clear as our gongs — again, an' once again, When rippin' down through coral-trash ran out our moorin'-chain; An' by Thy Grace I had the Light to see my duty plain. Light on the engine-room — no more — bright as our carbons burn. I've lost it since a thousand times, but never past return.
. . . . .
Obsairve. Per annum we'll have here two thousand souls aboard — Think not I dare to justify myself before the Lord, But — average fifteen hunder souls safe-borne fra' port to port — I am o' service to my kind. Ye wadna blame the thought? Maybe they steam from grace to wrath — to sin by folly led, — It isna mine to judge their path — their lives are on my head. Mine at the last — when all is done it all comes back to me, The fault that leaves six thousand ton a log upon the sea. We'll tak' one stretch — three weeks an' odd by any road ye steer — Fra' Cape Town east to Wellington — ye need an engineer. Fail there — ye've time to weld your shaft — ay, eat it, ere ye're spoke; Or make Kerguelen under sail — three jiggers burned wi' smoke! An' home again, the Rio run: it's no child's play to go Steamin' to bell for fourteen days o' snow an' floe an' blow — The bergs like kelpies overside that girn an' turn an' shift Whaur, grindin' like the Mills o' God, goes by the big South drift. (Hail, snow an' ice that praise the Lord: I've met them at their work, An' wished we had anither route or they anither kirk.) Yon's strain, hard strain, o' head an' hand, for though Thy Power brings All skill to naught, Ye'll understand a man must think o' things. Then, at the last, we'll get to port an' hoist their baggage clear — The passengers, wi' gloves an' canes — an' this is what I'll hear: "Well, thank ye for a pleasant voyage. The tender's comin' now." While I go testin' follower-bolts an' watch the skipper bow. They've words for every one but me — shake hands wi' half the crew, Except the dour Scots engineer, the man they never knew. An' yet I like the wark for all we've dam' few pickin's here — No pension, an' the most we earn's four hunder pound a year. Better myself abroad? Maybe. I'd sooner starve than sail Wi' such as call a snifter-rod ross. . .French for nightingale. Commeesion on my stores? Some do; but I can not afford To lie like stewards wi' patty-pans —. I'm older than the Board. A bonus on the coal I save? Ou ay, the Scots are close, But when I grudge the strength Ye gave I'll grudge their food to those. (There's bricks that I might recommend — an' clink the fire-bars cruel. No! Welsh — Wangarti at the worst — an' damn all patent fuel!) Inventions? Ye must stay in port to mak' a patent pay. My Deeferential Valve-Gear taught me how that business lay, I blame no chaps wi' clearer head for aught they make or sell. I found that I could not invent an' look to these — as well. So, wrestled wi' Apollyon — Nah! — fretted like a bairn — But burned the workin'-plans last run wi' all I hoped to earn. Ye know how hard an Idol dies, an' what that meant to me — E'en tak' it for a sacrifice acceptable to Thee. . . . Below there! Oiler! What's your wark? Ye find it runnin' hard? Ye needn't swill the cap wi' oil — this isn't the Cunard! Ye thought? Ye are not paid to think. Go, sweat that off again! Tck! Tck! It's deeficult to sweer nor tak' The Name in vain! Men, ay an' women, call me stern. Wi' these to oversee Ye'll note I've little time to burn on social repartee. The bairns see what their elders miss; they'll hunt me to an' fro, Till for the sake of — well, a kiss — I tak' 'em down below. That minds me of our Viscount loon — Sir Kenneth's kin — the chap Wi' Russia leather tennis-shoon an' spar-decked yachtin'-cap. I showed him round last week, o'er all — an' at the last says he: "Mister M'Andrew, don't you think steam spoils romance at sea?" Damned ijjit! I'd been doon that morn to see what ailed the throws, Manholin', on my back — the cranks three inches off my nose. Romance! Those first-class passengers they like it very well, Printed an' bound in little books; but why don't poets tell? I'm sick of all their quirks an' turns — the loves an' doves they dream — Lord, send a man like Robbie Burns to sing the Song o' Steam! To match wi' Scotia's noblest speech yon orchestra sublime Whaurto — uplifted like the Just — the tail-rods mark the time. The crank-throws give the double-bass, the feed-pump sobs an' heaves, An' now the main eccentrics start their quarrel on the sheaves: Her time, her own appointed time, the rocking link-head bides, Till — hear that note? — the rod's return whings glimmerin' through the guides. They're all awa'! True beat, full power, the clangin' chorus goes Clear to the tunnel where they sit, my purrin' dynamos. Interdependence absolute, foreseen, ordained, decreed, To work, Ye'll note, at any tilt an' every rate o' speed. Fra' skylight-lift to furnace-bars, backed, bolted, braced an' stayed, An' singin' like the Mornin' Stars for joy that they are made; While, out o' touch o' vanity, the sweatin' thrust-block says: "Not unto us the praise, or man — not unto us the praise!" Now, a' together, hear them lift their lesson — theirs an' mine: "Law, Orrder, Duty an' Restraint, Obedience, Discipline!" Mill, forge an' try-pit taught them that when roarin' they arose, An' whiles I wonder if a soul was gied them wi' the blows. Oh for a man to weld it then, in one trip-hammer strain, Till even first-class passengers could tell the meanin' plain! But no one cares except mysel' that serve an' understand My seven thousand horse-power here. Eh, Lord! They're grand — they're grand! Uplift am I? When first in store the new-made beasties stood, Were Ye cast down that breathed the Word declarin' all things good? Not so! O' that warld-liftin' joy no after-fall could vex, Ye've left a glimmer still to cheer the Man — the Arrtifex! That holds, in spite o' knock and scale, o' friction, waste an' slip, An' by that light — now, mark my word — we'll build the Perfect Ship. I'll never last to judge her lines or take her curve — not I. But I ha' lived an' I ha' worked. 'Be thanks to Thee, Most High! An' I ha' done what I ha' done — judge Thou if ill or well — Always Thy Grace preventin' me. . . . Losh! Yon's the "Stand by" bell. Pilot so soon? His flare it is. The mornin'-watch is set. Well, God be thanked, as I was sayin', I'm no Pelagian yet. Now I'll tak' on. . . . 'Morrn, Ferguson. Man, have ye ever thought What your good leddy costs in coal? . . . I'll burn 'em down to port.