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Sailor Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Sea Fever by John Masefield
  2. The Sailor's Appeal by Lydia Howard Sigourney
  3. A Sailor Bold by Annette Wynne
  4. The Sailor's Consolation by Charles Dibdin
  5. The Optimistic Skipper by Anonymous
  6. The Pilot Lost by Hannah Flagg Gould
  7. The Mariner's Dream by William Dimond
  8. A Sailor Ballad by Ruby Archer
  9. The Old Sailor by Margaret E. Sangster
  10. Captain Lean by Walter De la Mare
  11. Sailing To-Night by Anonymous
  12. The Sea-Boy by Lydia Sigourney
  13. The Fisher's Wife by Susan Rhyce Beckwith
  14. A Gray Day by Ruby Archer
  15. A Life on the Ocean Wave by Epes Sargent

  1. Sea Fever

    by John Masefield

    I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
    And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
    And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

    I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
    Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
    And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
    And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

    I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
    To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
    And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
    And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

  2. The Sailor's Appeal

    by Lydia Howard Sigourney

    Ye dwellers on the stable land,
    Of danger what know ye,
    Like us who brave the whelming surge,
    Or trust the treacherous sea?
    The fair trees shade you from the sun,
    You see the harvests grow,
    And breathe the fragrance of the breeze
    When the first roses blow.

    You slumber on your beds of down,
    Close wrapp'd in chambers warm,
    Lull'd only to a deeper dream
    By the descending storm;
    While high amid the slippery shroud
    We make our midnight path,
    And e'en the strongest mast is bow'd
    Beneath the tempest's wrath.

    Yet still, what know ye of the joy
    That lights our ocean-strife,
    When on its way our gallant ship
    Rides like a thing of life;
    When gayly towards the wish'd-for port
    With favouring wind we stand,
    Or first your misty line descry,
    Hills of our native land!

    There's deadly peril in our path
    Beyond the wrecking blast,
    A peril that may reach the soul
    When life's short voyage is past;
    Send us your Bibles when we go
    To dare the whelming wave,
    Your men of prayer, to teach us how
    To meet a watery grave.

    And, Saviour! thou whose foot sublime
    The foaming surge did tread,
    Whose hand the rash disciple drew
    From darkness and the dead,
    Oh! be our Ark when floods descend,
    When thunders shake the spheres,
    Our Ararat when tempests end,
    And the green earth appears.

  3. A Sailor Bold

    by Annette Wynne

    Sometimes I think I'd like to roam,
    A sailor bold across the sea,
    But how could Mother stay at home
    And be so very far from me?

    For who would sing my sleepy song,
    And tuck me in my sailor bed,
    And say God watches all night long,
    And kiss me when my prayers are said?

    I wonder if the sailor lad
    Is very, very lonely when
    The loud wind blows; and is he sad,
    And does he long for home again?

    So, after all, I would not roam,
    Until I'm eight to seas afar,
    While I am seven I'll stay at home
    Where Mother and her kisses are.

  4. The Sailor's Consolation

    by Charles Dibdin

    One night came on a hurricane,
    The sea was mountains rolling,
    When Barney Buntline turned his quid,
    And said to Billy Bowling:
    "A strong norwester's blowing, Bill;
    Hark! don't ye hear it roar now?
    Lord help 'em, how I pities all
    Unhappy folks on shore now!

    "Foolhardy chaps who live in town,
    What danger they are all in,
    And now are quaking in their beds,
    For fear the roof shall fall in;
    Poor creatures, how they envy us,
    And wish, as I've a notion,
    For our good luck, in such a storm,
    To be upon the ocean.

    "But as for them who're out all day,
    On business from their houses,
    And late at night are coming home,
    To cheer the babes and spouses;
    While you and I, Bill, on the deck,
    Are comfortably lying,
    My eyes! what tiles and chimney pots
    About their heads are flying!

    "And very often have we heard
    How men are killed and undone
    By overturns of carriages,
    By thieves, and fires in London.
    We know what risks all landsmen run,
    From noblemen to tailors;
    Then, Bill, let us thank Providence
    That you and I are sailors."

  5. The Optimistic Skipper

    by Amos Russel Wells

    The skipper of the Mary Ann, a jolly chap is he;
    With jaunty jest and merriment he gayly sails the sea.
    He knows no navigation and he missed his course a mile,
    But said, "It doesn't matter, so long as I can smile."
    He ran against an island, and he almost sank the ship—
    "Well, never mind!" he brightly said, "we'll have a cheerful trip."
    He did not see the gathering storm, but roared a sprightly song.

    "O sailors, keep a-singing, and the way will not be long!"
    The tempest blew him eastward and the tempest blew him west;
    Whatever way he travelled, he liked that way the best.
    He lost his course entirely, but he never lost his grin;
    Said he, "The bark of laughter is the ship to travel in!"

    And somewhere on the ocean, from the tropics to the pole,
    The storms are still a-buffeting that optimistic soul.
    He knows no navigation, but "What's the odds?" asks he,
    "So long as I am sailing on the top side of the sea?"

  6. The Pilot Lost

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    Mariners! mariners, what will ye do?
    The distant, fathomless deep ye've crossed.
    Your rock-bound coast has risen to view;
    And what will ye do? for your Pilot's lost.

    He, who had hastened through surge and foam,
    And reef and shallow so freely passed,
    To bring your ship with a welcome home,
    Your faithful Pilot is gone at last!

    His trusty boat has her trust betrayed!
    Her master has done with the sail and oar.
    And he, low under the waves is laid,
    Who guided his thousands safe to shore.

    He took his life in his friendly hand,
    When venturing forth your lives to save.
    To bring you again to your native land,
    He hurried himself to a watery grave.

    On earth's broad bosom no verdant turf
    Was marked for him in his final rest.
    The deep green sea and her curling surf
    Have pillowed his head and wrapped his breast!

    The waves o'er which he would lightly skim,
    When many a peril for you was run,
    Are sounding a requiem over him,
    And wailing the sorrowful deed they've done.

    With the heart of a brother, an eagle's eye,
    And a pilot's hand, when the heavens are dark,
    And blast and billow are strong and high,
    Who will now come to your wildered bark?

    O, there is One, who the deep can smooth,
    And hush the winds, who will still be nigh!
    Listen! your trembling hearts he'll soothe,
    With 'Mariners, be of good cheer—'t is I.'

    Trust him while crossing life's stormy sea.
    In every peril he'll lend you aid.
    Your pilot through Jordan's waves he'll be.
    Follow him closely and be not afraid!

  7. The Mariner's Dream

    by William Dimond

    In slumbers of midnight the sailor boy lay;
    His hammock swung loose at the sport of the wind;
    But watch-worn and weary, his cares flew away,
    And visions of happiness danced o'er his mind.

    He dreamed of his home, of his dear native bowers,
    And pleasures that waited on life's merry morn;
    While Memory each scene gayly covered with flowers,
    And restored every rose, but secreted the thorn.

    Then Fancy her magical pinions spread wide,
    And bade the young dreamer in ecstasy rise;
    Now, far, far behind him the green waters glide,
    And the cot of his forefathers blesses his eyes.

    The jessamine clambers in flowers o'er the thatch,
    And the swallow chirps sweet from her nest in the wall;
    All trembling with transport, he raises the latch,
    And the voices of loved ones reply to his call.

    A father bends o'er him with looks of delight;
    His cheek is impearled with a mother's warm tear;
    And the lips of the boy in a love kiss unite
    With the lips of the maid whom his bosom holds dear.

    The heart of the sleeper beats high in his breast;
    Joy quickens his pulses,—all his hardships seem o'er;
    And a murmur of happiness steals through his rest,—
    "O God! thou hast blest me,—I ask for no more."

    Ah! whence is that flame which now bursts on his eye?
    Ah! what is that sound that now 'larums his ear?
    'T is the lightning's red glare painting hell on the sky!
    'T is the crashing of thunders, the groan of the sphere!

    He springs from his hammock,—he flies to the deck;
    Amazement confronts him with images dire;
    Wild winds and mad waves drive the vessel a wreck;
    The masts fly in splinters; the shrouds are on fire.

    Like mountains the billows tremendously swell;
    In vain the lost wretch calls on Mercy to save;
    Unseen hands of spirits are ringing his knell,
    And the death angel flaps his broad wings o'er the wave!

    O sailor boy, woe to thy dream of delight!
    In darkness dissolves the gay frostwork of bliss!
    Where now is the picture that Fancy touched bright,—
    Thy parents' fond pressure, and love's honeyed kiss?

    O sailor boy! sailor boy! never again
    Shall home, love, or kindred, thy wishes repay;
    Unblessed and unhonored, down deep in the main,
    Full many a fathom, thy frame shall decay.

    No tomb shall e'er plead to remembrance for thee,
    Or redeem form or fame from the merciless surge;
    But the white foam of waves shall thy winding sheet be,
    And winds in the midnight of winter thy dirge.

    On a bed of green sea flowers thy limbs shall be laid,—
    Around thy white bones the red coral shall grow;
    Of thy fair yellow locks threads of amber be made,
    And every part suit to thy mansion below.

    Days, months, years, and ages shall circle away,
    And still the vast waters above thee shall roll;
    Earth loses thy pattern forever and aye;
    O sailor boy! sailor boy! peace to thy soul!

  8. A Sailor Ballad

    by Ruby Archer

    Oh, tie your knot with a tug and twist,
    And never a careless bend,
    Look out for strands that you may have missed,
    And never leave a loose end.

    In law or love will the ruling hold:
    If trouble away you'd fend,
    Be careful ever, and often bold,
    But never leave a loose end.

    The lag or slip of a rope will give
    A loop that you can't defend.
    You'll hate yourself as long as you live—
    Oh, never leave a loose end!

    Some other fellow as quick as thought
    Will do what you cannot mend—
    Untie your luck or your true-love knot,—
    So never leave a loose end.

  9. The Old Sailor

    by Margaret E. Sangster

    I've crossed the bar at last, mates,
    My longest voyage is done;
    And I can sit here, peaceful,
    And watch th' setting sun
    A-smilin' kind of glad like
    Upon the waves so free.
    My longest voyage is done, mates,
    But oh, the heart of me,
    Is out where sea meets skyline!
    My longest voyage is done....
    But—can I sit, in peace, mates,
    And watch the settin' sun?

    For what's a peaceful life, mates,
    When every breeze so free,
    When every gale a-blowin',
    Brings messages to me?
    And is the sky so shinin',
    For all it's golden sun,
    To one who loves the sea, mates,
    And knows his voyage is done?
    And, can a year on land, mates,
    Match with one day—at sea?
    Ah, every wind a-singin'
    Brings memory to me!

    I've crossed the bar at last, mates,
    My longest voyage is past,
    And I must watch the sunset,
    Must see it fade, at last.
    My steps are not so light, mates,
    As they were, years ago;
    And sometimes, when I'm tired,
    My head droops kind of low—
    Yet, though I'm old and—weary,
    The waves that dance so free,
    Keep callin' to my soul, mates,
    And thrill the heart of me!

  10. Captain Lean

    by Walter De la Mare

    Out of the East a hurricane
    Swept down on Captain Lean—
    That mariner and gentleman
    Will never again be seen.

    He sailed his ship against the foes
    Of his own country dear,
    But now in the trough of the billows
    An aimless course doth steer.

    Powder was violets to his nostrils,
    Sweet the din of the fighting-line,
    Now he is flotsam on the seas,
    And his bones are bleached with brine.

    The stars move up along the sky,
    The moon she shines so bright,
    And in that solitude the foam
    Sparkles unearthly white.

    This is the tomb of Captain Lean,
    Would a straiter please his soul?
    I trow he sleeps in peace,
    Howsoever the billows roll!

  11. Sailing To-Night

    by Anonymous

    There’s a ship on the sea. It is sailing to-night—
    Sailing to-night;—
    And father’s aboard, and the moon is all bright—
    Shining and bright.
    Dear Moon, he’ll be sailing for many a night—
    Sailing from mother and me;
    Oh, follow the ship with your silvery light,
    As father sails over the sea!

  12. The Sea-Boy

    by Lydia Sigourney

    "Up the main-top-mast, ho!"
    The storm was loud,
    And the deep midnight muffled up her head,
    Leaving no ray.

    By the red binnacle,
    I saw the sea-boy. His young cheek was pale,
    And his lips trembled. But he dar'd not hear
    That hoarse command repeated. So he sprang,
    With slender foot amid the slippery shrouds.

    He, oft by moonlight watch, had lur'd my car,
    With everlasting stories of his home,
    And of his mother. His fair brow told tales
    Of household kisses, and of gentle hands
    That bound it when it ached, and laid it down
    On the soft pillow, with a curtaining care.

    And he had sometimes spoken of the cheer
    That waited him, when, wearied from his school,
    At winter's eve, he came. Then, he would pause,
    For his high beating bosom threw a chain
    O'er his proud lips, or else he would have sigh'd,
    In deep remorse, for leaving such a home.

    And he would haste away, and pace the deck,
    More rapidly, as if to hide from me,
    The gushing tear. I mark'd the inward strife
    Unquestioning, save by a silent prayer
    That the tear wrung so bitterly, might work
    The sea-boy's good, and wash away all trace
    Of disobedience. Now, the same big tear
    Hung like a pearl upon him, as he climb'd
    And grappled to the mast.

    I watch'd his toil,
    With strange foreboding, till he seem'd a speck
    Upon the ebon bosom of the cloud.
    And I remember'd that he once had said,
    "I fear I shall not see my home again:"
    And sad the memory of those mournful words,
    Dwelt with me, as he pass'd above my sight,
    Into thick darkness.

    The wild blast swept on.
    The strong ship toss'd.
    Shuddering, I heard a plunge,
    A heavy plunge,—a gurgling 'mid the wave.
    I shouted to the crew. In vain! In vain!
    The ship held on her way. And never more
    Shall that poor, delicate sea-boy raise his head,
    To do the bidding of those roughen'd men,
    Whose home is on the sea.

    And never more
    May his fond mother strain him to her breast,
    Weeping that hardship thus should bronze the brow,
    To her so beautiful, nor the kind sire
    Make glad by his forgiveness, the rash youth
    Who wander'd from his home, to throw the wealth
    Of his warm feelings on the faithless sea.

  13. The Fisher's Wife

    by Susan Rhyce Beckwith

    Lonely, desponding—the gathering gloom
    Slowly filling the quiet room—
    Sits the fisher's wife, with disheveled hair;—
    What does she see in the darkness there?

    Outside, the breakers, with sullen dash
    Fling high their spray to the window-sash,
    That, by the fitful gleams of the moonlight thrown,
    Seems like prison-bars on her floor of stone.

    On this same night, ten years before,
    While the angry sea lashed the rock-bound shore,
    She, anxiously watching, trimmed her light;—
    And the waves were cold, and the moon was bright.

    "Set the light, my lass, by the cottage door,"
    Said the fisher that morn as he sought the shore;
    "The moon will be up when I come to-night;
    Her wake once crossed, I shall be all right."

    With earnest eye, since the waning day,
    She had followed the moon in her upward way,
    And her quivering wake on the midnight sea,
    If there the looked-for boat might be.

    'Mong the rocks, where shadows so darksomely hide,
    Where the sea-foam that wreathed them was gone with the tide
    With tight'ning hands o'er the sickening heart,
    With blanching cheek, and lips apart—
    Like a statue she stood, so cold and white,
    Searching, but vainly, into the night.

    A tiny form with outstretched hands,
    And pink feet glancing among the sands,
    And a baby voice—"Mamma, mamma!"
    But the merciless sea, shock after shock,
    Assaulting the solid towering rock
    With fearful echoes, re-echoing far,
    Swallows the cry;
    Did'st thou hear it not?


    There's a desolate heart and an empty cot.
    And that little form, uncoffined and white,
    Revealed by the gleams of the pale moonlight,
    As pulseless it lay on the surf-washed shore,
    Shall rest on her memory evermore.

    'Tis this she sees in that quiet room,
    Where all is wrapped in the gathering gloom;
    And alone—God help her! she sits apart,
    With folded hands and a broken heart!

  14. A Gray Day

    by Ruby Archer

    A gray day, and the gulls are gone.
    Visor of mist o'er the sun is drawn.
    The cordage creaks and the sails all strain,
    The deck is drenched with the rushing rain,
    The waves leap strong at the struggling keel,
    And the ship rides madly with plunge and reel.
    But the sailors shout as they haul away,
    And merrily sing, for it's naught care they
    For the wind that screams on the lee,
    Or a gray day out at sea.

  15. A Life on the Ocean Wave

    by Epes Sargent

    A life on the ocean wave!
    A home on the rolling deep!
    Where the scatter d waters rave,
    And the winds their revels keep!
    Like an eagle cag'd I pine,
    On this dull unchanging shore—
    Oh give me the flashing brine,
    The spray and the tempest's roar.
    A life on the ocean wave!
    A home on the rolling deep!
    Where the scatter'd waters rave,
    And the winds their revels keep!

    Once more on the deck I stand
    Of my own swift-gliding craft,
    Set sail! farewell to the land,
    The gale follows fair abaft.
    We shoot through the sparkling foam,
    Like an ocean bird set free;
    Like the ocean bird our home,
    We'll find far out on the sea.
    A life on the ocean wave! &c.

    The land is no longer in view;
    The clouds have begun to frown;
    But with a stout vessel and crew,
    We'll say let the storm come down.
    And the song of our hearts shall be,
    While the winds and the waters rave,
    A life on the heaving sea!
    A home on the bounding wave.
    A life on the ocean wave! &c.

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