The Ship

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The Ship
written by John Masefield
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BEFORE Man's labouring wisdom gave me birth
I had not even seen the light of day;
Down in the central darkness of the earth,
Crushed by the weight of continents I lay,
Ground by the weight to heat, not knowing then
The air, the light, the noise, the world of men.


We grew on mountains where the glaciers cry,
Infinite sombre armies of us stood
Below the snow-peaks which defy the sky;
A song like the gods moaning filled our wood;
We knew no men; our life was to stand stanch,
Singing our song, against the avalanche.


We were a million grasses on the hill,
A million herbs which bowed as the wind blew,
Trembling in every fibre, never still;
Out of the summer earth sweet life we drew.
Little blue-flowered grasses up the glen,
Glad of the sun, what did we know of men?


T e tore the iron from the mountain's hold,
By blasting fires we smithied it to steel;
Out of the shapeless stone we learned to mould
The sweeping bow, the rectilinear keel;
We hewed the pine to plank, we split the fir,
We pulled the myriad flax to fashion her.

Out of a million lives our knowledge came,
A million subtle craftsmen forged the means;
Steam was our handmaid, and our servant flame,
Water our strength, all bowed to our machines.
Out of the rock, the tree, the springing herb,
We built this wandering beauty so superb.


We, who were born on earth and live by air,
Make this thing pass across the fatal floor,
The speechless sea; alone we commune there,
Jesting with Death, that ever-open door.
Sun, moon, and stars are signs by which we drive
This wind-blown iron like a thing alive.


I march across great waters like a queen,
I whom so many wisdoms helped to make;
Over the uncruddled billows of seas green
I blanch the bubbled highway of my wake.
By me my wandering tenants clasp the hands
And know the thoughts of men in other lands.

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