The Wardens Of The Seas
Like star points in the ether to guide a homing soul
Towards God's Eternal Haven; above the wash and roll,
Across and o'er the oceans, on all the coasts they stand
Tall seneschals of commerce, High Wardens of the Strand --
The white lights slowly turning
Their kind eyes far and wide,
The red and green lights burning
Along the waterside.
When Night with breath of aloes, magnolia, spice, and balm
Creeps down the darkened jungles and mantles reef and palm,
By velvet waters making soft music as they surge
The shore lights of dark Asia will one by one emerge --
Oh, Ras Marshig by Aden
Shows dull on hazy nights;
And Bombay Channel's laid in
Its "In" and "Outer" lights.
When Night, in rain-wet garments comes sobbing cold and grey
Across the German Ocean and South from Stornoway,
Thro' snarling darkness slowly, some fixed and some a-turn,
The bright shore-lights of Europe like welcome tapers burn, --
From fierce Fruholmen streaming
O'er Northern ice and snow,
To Cape St. Vincent gleaming, --
These lamps of danger glow.
The dark Etruscan tending his watchfires by the shore,
On sacred altars burning, the world shall know no more;
His temple's column standing against the ancient stars
Is gone; Now bright catoptrics flash out electric bars, --
Slow swung his stately Argos
Unto the Tiber's mouth;
But now the Tuscan cargoes
Screw-driven, stagger South.
The lantern of Genoa guides home no Eastern fleets
As when the boy Columbus played in its narrow streets:
No more the Keltic `dolmens' their fitful warnings throw
Across the lone Atlantic, so long, so long ago --
No more the beaked prows dashing
Shall dare a shoreward foam;
No more will great oars threshing
Sweep Dorian galleys home.
No more the Vikings roaring their sagas wild and weird
Proclaim that Rome has fallen; no more a consul feared
Shall quench the Roman pharos lest Northern pirates free
Be pointed to their plunder on coasts of Italy --
Nor shall unwilling lovers,
From Lethean pleasures torn,
Fare nor'ward with those rovers,
To frozen lands forlorn.
The bale-fires and the watch-fires, the wrecker's foul false lure
No more shall vex the shipmen; and on their course secure
Past Pharos in the starlight the tow'ring hulls of Trade
Race in and out from Suez in iron cavalcade, --
So rode one sunset olden
Across the dark'ning sea,
With banners silk and golden,
The Barge of Antony!
They loom along the foreshores; they gleam across the Straits;
They guide the feet of Commerce unto the harbor gates.
In nights of storm and thunder, thro' fog and sleet and rain,
Like stars on angels' foreheads, they give man heart again, --
Oh, hear the high waves smashing
On Patagonia's shore!
Oh, hear the black waves threshing
Their weight on Skerryvore!
He searches night's grim chances upon his bridge alone
And seeks the distant glimmer of hopeful Eddystone:
And thro' a thick fog creeping, with chart and book and lead,
The homeward skipper follows their green and white and red --
By day his lighthouse wardens
In sunlit quiet stand,
But in the night the burdens
Are theirs of Sea and Land.
They fill that night with Knowledge. A thousand ships go by,
A thousand captains bless them, so bright and proud and high:
The world's dark capes they glamour; or low on sand banks dread,
They, crouching, mark a pathway between the Quick and Dead --
Like star points in the ether
They bring the seamen ease,
These Lords of Wind and Weather
These Wardens of the Seas!
Saturday, January 4, 2003