War, the Liberator, and Other Pieces/The Ship of the Soul

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To E. J. S.

LONG ago in the dawn of nations
Wisdom in Egypt dreamed a dream,
The ship of the soul of man a-sailing
Over the Nile’s god-haunted stream.
Tired the travellers young and aged
Voyaging in from near and far,
Swift and surely the strong oars bore them
Down to the glorious feet of Ra.

Dust is wisdom, its dream forgotten,
But still in the light of the setting sun
The ships of the souls of men go seeking
The harbour that waits for everyone;
Still in the current the strong oars quiver
In changing rapids the light boats roll,
Quiet is Nile, but on life’s broad river
Still puts forth the ship of the soul.

Ship after ship puts into harbour,
Little bright towns by the riverside,
And there is joy and feasting and dancing
And fair glad maidens starry-eyed,
One by one do the ships drop anchor,
One by one in the roads they lie,
Each one comes to his own home harbour,
Every one but you and I.

Why can we not stay? we that are wanting
Nothing more than the others are,
A wife by the fire and a hearth to warm us,
Anchorage safe in the harbour far.
But in the midst of feasting and loving,
Soft as the touch of a wizard’s wand,
The wind and the sound of the water call us,
“Come, there are better things beyond.”

Others may find their loves and keep them,
But for us two there still shall be
A kinder heart and a fairer city,
The home and wife we shall never see.
Lost adventurers, watching ever
Over the toss of the tricksy foam,
Many a joyous port and city,
Never the harbour lights of home.