“Sail on, O Ship of State”

Reading an old Harvard Classics book of selected works of the English poets, I came across a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, entitled “The Building of the Ship.” Like the others in this book, it contained a passage or a phrase that most of us have heard all our lives, but never knew its origin. This excerpt seems especially meaningful in these currently challenging times:

“Build me straight, O worthy Master,

Staunch and strong, a goodly vessel,

That shall laugh at all disaster,

And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!…”

“…Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!

 Sail on, O Union, strong and great!

Humanity with all its fears,

With all the hopes of future years

Is hanging  breathless on thy fate!

We know what Master laid the keel,

What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,

Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,

What anvils rang, what hammers beat,

In what a forge and what a heat

Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!

Fear not each sudden sound and shock,

‘Tis of the wave and not the rock;

‘Tis but the flapping of the sail,

And not a rent made by the gale!

In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,

In spite of false lights on the shore,

Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!

Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,

Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,

Our faith triumphant o’er our fears

Are all with thee,–are all with thee.”

–HW Longfellow


Author: b4i4get

I am a 68-yo retired Physical Therapist Asst. living in Texas. Currently I have ~5 dozen webpages, including 3 homepages, an e-novel, and 1 blog. I love cats, writing, and thinking about the big questions. I am also a singer-songwriter, though no one has heard of me--yet.

2 thoughts on ““Sail on, O Ship of State””

  1. Longfellow was a wonderful poet-we do not seem to have writers of poetry any more. There is na short poem in our local paper each saturday-I try to read it, but it doesn’t make sense at all. No rhyme nor rhythm-just words put into random spaces .

    Reading back, I love the item about keeping things-there are times I feel like a hoarder. Especially clothes–I want to keep what i have already, maybe I’ll gain weight and wear them again–if not,I’ll give them away–maybe.

    Nice to be back in the world !

    cheers Maggy from Melbourne,Oz.

  2. It’s great to have you back, Maggy! I prefer to have my poetry with meter and rhyme, too, and that’s the kind I write. As far as mastery of meter and rhyme go, there is no one better at this than Edgar Allen Poe! His poems are sad and tortured, but a delight to read out loud.

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