The King and the Sea

After His Realms and States were moved
 To bare their hearts to the King they loved,
 Tendering themselves in homage and devotion,
 The Tide Wave up the Channel spoke
 To all those eager, exultant folk:—
 “Hear now what Man was given you by the Ocean! 

“There was no thought of Orb or Crown
 When the single wooden chest went down
 To the steering-flat, and the careless Gunroom haled him
 To learn by ancient and bitter use,
 How neither Favour nor Excuse,
 Nor aught save his sheer self henceforth availed him. 

“There was no talk of birth or rank
 By the slung hammock or scrubbed plank
 In the steel-grated prisons where I cast him;
 But niggard hours and a narrow space
 For rest—and the naked light on his face—
While the ship’s traffic flowed, unceasing, past him. 

“Thus I schooled him to go and come—
To speak at the word—at a sign be dumb;
 To stand to his task, not seeking others to aid him;
 To share in honour what praise might fall
 For the task accomplished, and—over all—
To swallow rebuke in silence. Thus I made him.

“I loosened every mood of the deep
 On him, a child and sick for sleep,
 Through the long watches that no time can measure,
 When I drove him, deafened and choked and blind,
 At the wave-tops cut and spun by the wind;
 Lashing him, face and eyes, with my displeasure. 

“I opened him all the guile of the seas—
Their sullen, swift-sprung treacheries,
 To be fought, or forestalled, or dared, or dismissed with laughter.
 I showed him Worth by Folly concealed,
 And the flaw in the soul that a chance revealed
 (Lessons remembered—to bear fruit thereafter). 

“I dealt him Power beneath his hand,
 For trial and proof, with his first Command—
Himself alone, and no man to gainsay him.
 On him the End, the Means, and the Word,
 And the harsher judgment if he erred,
 And—outboard—Ocean waiting to betray him. 

“Wherefore, when he came to be crowned,
 Strength in Duty held him bound,
 So that not Power misled nor ease ensnared him
 Who had spared himself no more than his seas had spared him!” 
                *        *        *        *

After His Lieges, in all His Lands,
 Had laid their hands between His hands,
 And His ships thundered service and devotion,
 The Tide Wave, ranging the Planet, spoke
 On all Our foreshores as it broke:—
“Know now what Man I gave you—I, the Ocean!” 

Choose another poem