In a rolling march of reverberations,
Marching with wind and tide,
Heroes of unremembered nations
Vaunt their immortal pride.
Briton, Spaniard, Phoenician, Roman,
Gallant implacable hosts—
Locked in fight with phantom foeman,
Gather the grim sea-ghosts.
In from the ocean the white fog creeps,
Blotting out ship, and rock, and tree,
While wrapped in its shroud, from the soundless deeps,
Back to the land come the lost at sea.
Over the weeping grass they drift
By well-known paths to their homes again,
To finger the latch they may not lift
And peer through the glistering window-pane.
Then in the churchyard each seeks the stone
To its memory raised among the rest,
And they watch by their empty graves alone
Till the fog rolls back to the ocean’s breast.
CAPE HORN GOSPEL: JOHN MASEFIELD
“I was in a hooker once,” said Karlssen,
“And Bill, as was a seaman, died,
So we lashed him in an old tarpaulin
And tumbled him across the side;
And the fun of it was that all his gear was
Divided up among the crew
Before that blushing human error
Our crawling little captain, knew.
“On the passage home one morning
(As certain as I prays for grace)
There was old Bill’s shadder a-hauling
At the mizzen weather topsail brace.
He was all grown green with seaweed
He was all lashed up and shored;
So I says to him, I says, ’Why, Billy!
What’s a-bringin’ of you back aboard?’
“‘I’m a-weary of them there mermaids,’
Says old Bill’s ghost to me;
’It ain’t no place for a Christian
Below there—under sea.
For it’s all blown sand and shipwrecks
And old bones eaten bare,
And them cold fishy females
With long green weeds for hair.
“’And there ain’t no dances shuffled,
And no old yarns is spun,
And there ain’t no stars but starfish,
And never any moon or sun.
I heard your keel a-passing
And the running rattle of the brace,
And I says, “Stand by,"’ says William,
‘"For a shift towards a better place."’
“Well, he sogered about decks till sunrise,
When a rooster in the hen-coop crowed,
And as so much smoke he faded,
And as so much smoke he goed;
And I’ve often wondered since, Jan,
How his old ghost stands to fare
Long o’ them cold fishy females
With long green weeds for hair.”
The Captain is walking his quarter-deck,
With a troubled brow and a bended neck;
One eye is down through the hatchway cast,
The other turns up to the truck on the mast;
Yet none of the crew may venture to hint
“Our skipper hath gotten a sinister squint!”