John McCrae

(30 November 1872 – 28 January 1918 / Guelph, Ontario)

The Captain - Poem by John McCrae




Here all the day she swings from tide to tide,
Here all night long she tugs a rusted chain,
A masterless hulk that was a ship of pride,
Yet unashamed: her memories remain.

It was Nelson in the `Captain', Cape St. Vincent far alee,
With the `Vanguard' leading s'uth'ard in the haze --
Little Jervis and the Spaniards and the fight that was to be,
Twenty-seven Spanish battleships, great bullies of the sea,
And the `Captain' there to find her day of days.

Right into them the `Vanguard' leads, but with a sudden tack
The Spaniards double swiftly on their trail;
Now Jervis overshoots his mark, like some too eager pack,
He will not overtake them, haste he e'er so greatly back,
But Nelson and the `Captain' will not fail.

Like a tigress on her quarry leaps the `Captain' from her place,
To lie across the fleeing squadron's way:
Heavy odds and heavy onslaught, gun to gun and face to face,
Win the ship a name of glory, win the men a death of grace,
For a little hold the Spanish fleet in play.

Ended now the "Captain"'s battle, stricken sore she falls aside
Holding still her foemen, beaten to the knee:
As the `Vanguard' drifted past her, "Well done, `Captain'," Jervis cried,
Rang the cheers of men that conquered, ran the blood of men that died,
And the ship had won her immortality.

Lo! here her progeny of steel and steam,
A funnelled monster at her mooring swings:
Still, in our hearts, we see her pennant stream,
And "Well done, `Captain'," like a trumpet rings.


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Read poems about / on: pride, sea, death, night, memory, running



Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002



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