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Rudyard Kipling

(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 / Bombay)

The Second Voyage


1903


We've sent our little Cupids all ashore --
They were frightened, they were tired, they were cold:
Our sails of silk and purple go to store,
And we've cut away our mast of beaten gold
(Foul weather!)
Oh 'tis hemp and singing pine for to stand against the brine,
But Love he is our master as of old!

The sea has shorn our galleries away,
The salt has soiled our gilding past remede;
Our paint is flaked and blistered by the spray,
Our sides are half a fathom furred in weed
(Foul weather!)
And the Doves of Venus fled and the petrels came instead,
But Love he was our master at our need!

'Was Youth would keep no vigil at the bow,
'Was Pleasure at the helm too drunk to steer --
We've shipped three able quartermasters now.
Men call them Custom, Reverence, and Fear
(Foul weather!)
They are old and scarred and plain, but we'll run no risk again
From any Port o' Paphos mutineer!

We seek no more the tempest for delight,
We skirt no more the indraught and the shoal --
We ask no more of any day or night
Than to come with least adventure to our goal
(Foul weather!)
What we find we needs must brook, but we do not go to look,
Nor tempt the Lord our God that saved us whole.

Yet, caring so, not overmuch we care
To brace and trim for every foolish blast,
If the squall be pleased to seep us unaware,
He may bellow off to leeward like the last
(Foul weather!)
We will blame it on the deep (for the watch must have their sleep),
And Love can come and wake us when 'tis past.

Oh launch them down with music from the beach,
Oh warp them out with garlands from the quays --
Most resolute -- a damsel unto each --
New prows that seek the old Hesperides!
(Foul weather!)
Though we know their voyage is vain, yet we see our path again
In the saffroned bridesails scenting all the seas!
(Foul weather!)

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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