The Chant of the Derelict

Drifting, drifting here with the tide
While the seams that the sea-weeds caulk gape wide
Like a star with eternity for its bride
I accept the measureless sea —
While trampling oceans break in foam
Comb over phosphorescent comb
Over and over me.

Driven, driven at the wind's will
Through dawns and midnights far and still
While the sun, as huge as the top of a hill,
Heaves from, sinks in, the Main, —
To the north, to the south, to the east, to the west
I plunge and plunge my blackened breast
And turn and turn again.

And ever I dream of the shifting feet
Of seamen above, and the whistle sweet —
Though the driving rain and the wind and the sleet —
Of the bo'sun that calls in storm. . . .
And the ships that I have known in the Past
Grow, full-sailed, on the ghostly blast,
Form over swelling form. . . .

Thank God that I, though black-decayed,
Through the broken path of the moon still wade
Or where dawns like shimmering silks invade
The drab of the eastern skies, —
That still I wallow through trembling stars
And shatter them into silver bars
Where a Way of Wonder lies, —

I, a Derelict, broken and vast,
By every wave that lips me cast
Till I think each lift will be my last
Ere I sink to the depths below,
Where a thousand comrades, strewn along,
Made brave by legend and tale and song
Wait, coral-grown, in a row. . . .

'Tis said that they've charted me, marked me down
As a drifting thing of ill-renown
By the varying tides and breezes sown
In the paths of orderly ships, —
I, who have carried their India wares,
And, running about the world's affairs,
Have met all seas at grips!

Alas, for the thankless heart of Man,
That, full of service, the Survey's ban
Should fall on me who, full-rigged, ran
From edge to edge of the sky. . . .
But, ah, I shall speak once more with a ship
A great, wide-sailed, down-bearing ship
Ere I take my doom and die, —

And I shall know one large embrace
As I meet a comrade face to face
While she comes at a stately, star-lit pace
Over the moon-calm sea, —
Surprising her with the sudden drift
And the ancient, loving, weed-grown lift
Of this poor old body of me. . . .

Oh, ever I dream of the tread of feet
And the sound of the bo'sun's whistle sweet
And so I am glad, I am glad to greet
The unwary ships that pass, —
Though they come on me like the hiss of hail
That rides the top of a grey-maimed gale
And tinkle like breaking glass;

For to me they are love, to me they are life
And a long-sought woman taken to wife
After courtship's dallying strife, —
Alas, that they sink in the sea!
But 'tis the fault of the ghosts that steer,
Not mine, that they are cloven sheer,
By the high, gaunt sides of me!

Drifting, drifting here with the tide
While the seams that the sea-weeds caulk gape wide
I wait; I wait for the full broadside
Of the wave that will bring my doom
When I'll sink at last, to lurch endlong,
Myself a memory and a song, —
Asleep in the great, green gloom!
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