The Ship That Went Down

I

Who hath not sent out ships to sea?
Who hath not toiled through light and darkness to make them strong for battle?
And how we freighted them with dust from the mountain mines!
And red gold, coined from the heart's blood, rich in Youth, Love and Beauty!
And we have fondly sent forth on their white decks seven times a hundred souls.
Sent them out like sea-girt worlds full of hope, love, care, and faith.
O mariners, mariners, watch and beware!


II

See the Ship that I sent forth!
How proudly she nods her regal head to each saluting wave!
How defiantly she flaps her white sails at the sun, who, in envy of her beauty, screens his face behind a passing cloud, yet never losing sight of her.
The ocean hath deck'd himself in robes of softest blue, and lifted his spray-flags to greet her.
The crimson sky hath swooped down from her Heaven-Palace, and sitteth with her white feet dabbling in the borders of the sea, while she sendeth sweet promises on the wings of the wind to my fair Ship.
O mariners, mariners, why did ye not watch and beware?


III

The faithless sky is black.
The ocean howls on the Ship's rough track.
The strong wind, and the shouting rain swept by like an armed host whooping out their wild battle-cry.
The tall masts dip their heads down into the deep.
The wet shrouds rattle as they seem to whisper prayers to themselves;
But the waves leap over their pallid sails, and grapple and gnaw at their seams.
The poor Ship shrieks and groans out her despair.
She rises up to plead with the sky, and sinks down the deep valley of water to pray.
O God, make us strong for the battle!


IV

What says the mariner so hurried and pale?
No need to whisper it, speak out, speak!
Danger and peril you say?
Does your quivering lip and white cheek mean that the good Ship must go down?
Why stand ye idle and silent?
O sailors, rouse your brave hearts!
Man the rocking masts, and reef the rattling sails!
Heed not the storm-fires that so terribly burn in the black sky!
Heed not the storm-mad sea below!
Heed not the death-cry of the waves!
Foot to foot, hand to hand! Toil on brave hearts!
Our good Ship must be saved!
Before us lies the goal!


V

Too late, too late!
The life-boats are lost.
The rent spars have groaned out their lives, and the white sails have shrouded them in their rough beds of Death.
Strong mariners have fainted and failed in the terror and strife.
White lips are grasping for breath, and trembling out prayers, and waiting to die.
And the Ship, once so fair, lies a life-freighted wreck.
The Promises, Hopes, and Loves, are sinking, sinking away.
The winds shriek out their joy, and the waves shout out their anthem of Death.
Pitiless wind!
Pitiless ocean!


VI

O mariners, is there no help?
Is there no beacon-light in the distance?
Dash the tears of blood from your eyes, and look over these Alps of water!
See ye no sail glittering through the darkness?
Is there no help?
Must they all die, all die?
So much of Youth, so much of Beauty, so much of Life?
The waves answer with ravenous roar;
They grapple like demons the trembling Ship!
Compassless, rudderless, the poor Ship pleads.
In vain! in vain!
With a struggling, shivering, dying grasp, my good Ship sank down, down, down to the soundless folds of the fathomless ocean.
Lost-lost-lost.

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