Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores;
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: "Now we must pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Adm'r'l speak: what shall I say?"
"Why, say: 'Sail on, sail on, and on!'"
"My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly, wan and weak."
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
"What shall I say, brave Adm'r'l, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?"
"Why, you shall say at break of day:
'Sail on, sail on, sail on, and on!"
They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way,
For God from those dread seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Adm'r'l, speak and say—
He said: "Sail on, sail on, and on!"
They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
"This mad sea shows his teeth tonight.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
He lifts his teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Adm'r'l, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?"
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
"Sail on, sail on, sail on, and on!"
Then pale and worn, he paced the deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck—
A light! A light! At last a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time's burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: On! sail on!"
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.
The author died in 1913, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 99 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.