John Freeman (1880-1929 / England)
At The Dock
They loiter round the Dock that holds yon Ship
Shuddering at the dark pool's defiled lip
From springing bows to foam-deriding stern;
They have left her, and await her call 'Return!'
Like any human mistress she has cast
Careless her ancient lovers, till at last
Perforce she calls them, and perforce they come
Like any human lovers.... Ah, what home
Know these, save in the Ship, the Ship! She groans
Day and night with travail of their strenuous bones.
They know her for their mother, sister, spouse,
Heart of their passion, idol of their vows;
They ward her, and she is their sure defence
'Gainst the sad waters' leagued malevolence.
The Ship, the Ship: they are her slaves, and she
Their Liege, their Faith, their Fate, their History.
Lo! they have bought her buoyancy with their blood
And their ribs cling the keel that cleaves the flood.
Their watches in the night, their loneliness,
Their toil, hunger and thirst, their heart's distress,
Their hands, their feet, far eye and smitten head
Whereon the Sea's upgathered weight is shed;
With these the Ship, the Ship is laid and rigged,
Launched and steered out; with these her living grave is digged,
They lean close over her--and long, perhaps,
For the broad seas and the loud wind that claps
Boisterous hands on the Ship's course; and wait
Her call who calls them with the voice of Fate.
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