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“Build me straight, O worthy Master!
Sta unch and strong, a goodly vessel, That shall laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!” With oaken brace and copper band, Lay the rudder on the sand, That, like a thought, should have control Over the movement of the whole; And near it the anchor, whose giant hand Would reach down and grapple with the land, And immovable and fast Hold the great ship against the bellowing blast. And at the bows an image stood, By a cunning artist carved in wood, With robes of white, that far behind Seemed to be fluttering in the wind. It was not shaped in a classic mould, Not like a Nymph or Goddess of old, Or Naiad rising from the water, But modelled from the Master's daughter ! On many a dreary and misty night, 'Twill be seen by the rays of the signal light, Speeding along through the rain and the dark, Like a ghost in its snow-white sark, The pilot of some phantom bark, Guiding the vessel, in its. Alight, By a path none other knows aright! Behold, at last, Each tall and tapering mast Is swung into its place; Shrouds and stays Holding it firm and fast ! Long ago, In the deer-haunted forests of Mainc,
When upon mountain and plain
Lay the snow,
They fell,--those lordly pines!
Those grand, majestic pines !
Mid shouts and cheers
The jaded steers,
Panting beneath the goad,
Dragged down the weary winding road
Those captive kings so straight and tall,
To be shorn of their streaming hair,
And, naked and bare,
To feel the stress and the strain
Of the wind and the reeling main,
Would remind them for evermore
Of their native forests they should not see again.
The slender, graceful spars
Poise aloft in the air,
And at the mast-head,
White, blue, and red,
A flag unrolls the stripes and stars.
Ah! when the wanderer, lonely, friendless,
In foreign harbours shall behold
That flag unrolled,
'Twill be as a friendly hand
Stretched out from his native land,
Filling his heart with memories sweet and endless.
All is finished ! and at length
Has come the bridal day
Of beauty and of strength.
To-day the vessel shall be launched !
With fleecy clouds the sky is blanched,
And o'er the bay,
Slowly, in all his splendours dight,
The great sun rises to behold the sight.
The ocean old,
Strong as youth, and as uncontrolled,
Paces restless to and fro,
Up and down the sands of gold.
His beating heart is not at rest;
And far and wide,
With ceaseless flow,
His beard of snow
Heaves with the heaving of his breast.
He waits impatient for his bride.
There she stands,
With her foot upon the sands,
Decked with flags and streamers gay,
In honour of her marriage day,
Her snow-white signals fluttering, blending,
Round her like a veil descending,
Ready to be
The bride of the grey, old sea.
On the deck another bride
Is standing by her lover's side.
Shadows from the flags and shrouds,
Like the shadows cast by clouds,
Broken by many a sunny fleck,
Fall around them on the deck.
The prayer is said,
The service read,
The joyous bridegroom bows his head,
And in tears the good old Master
Shakes the brown hand of his son,
Kisses his daughter's glowing cheek
In silence, for he cannot speak,
And ever faster
Down his own the tears begin to run.
The worthy pastor-
The shepherd of that wandering flock,
That has the ocean for its wold,
That has the vessel for its fold,
Leaping ever from rock to rock-
Spake, with accents mild and clear,
Words of warning, words of cheer,
But tedious to the bridegroom's ear.
He knew the chart
Of the sailor's heart,
All its pleasures and its griefs,
All its shallows and rocky reefs,
All those secret currents, that flow
With such resistless undertow,
And lift and drift, with terrible force,
The will from its moorings and its course.
Therefore he spake, and thus said he :-
“Like unto ships far off at sea,
Outward or homeward bound, are we.
Before, behind, and all around,
Floats and swings the horizon's bound,
Seems at its distant rim to rise
And climb the crystal wall of the skies,
And then again to turn and sink,
As if we could slide from its outer brink.
Ah! it is not the sea,
It is not the sea that sinks and shelves,
That rock and rise
With endless and uneasy motion,
Now touching the very skies,
Now sinking into the depths of ocean.
Ah! if our souls but poise and swing
Like the compass in its brazen ring,
Ever level, and ever true
To the toil and the task we have to do,
We shall sail securely, and safely reach
The Fortunate Isles, on whose shining beach
The sights we see, and the sounds we hear,
Will be those of joy and not of fear!”.
Then the Master,
With a gesture of command,
Waved his hand;
And at the word,
Loud and sudden there was heard,
All around them and below,
The sound of hammers, blow on blow,
Knocking away the shores and spurs.
And see! she stirs !
She starts,--she moves, she seems to feel
The thrill of life along her keel,
And, spurning with her foot the ground,
With one exulting, joyous bound,
She leaps into the ocean's arms !
And lo! from the assembled crowd
There rose a shout, prolonged and loud,
That to the ocean seemed to say,-
“Take her, O bridegroom, old and grey,
Take her to thy protecting arms,
With all her youth and all her charms !”
How beautiful she is! How fair
She lies within those arms that press
Her form with many a soft caress
Of tenderness and watchful care !
Sail forth into the sea, O ship!
Through wind and wave, right onward steer