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- The White Bees - 11/11 -

On our first voyage? It was then I vowed My sailor-soul and years to search the sea Until we found the water-path that leads From Europe into Asia. I believe That God has poured the ocean round His world, Not to divide, but to unite the lands. And all the English captains that have dared In little ships to plough uncharted waves,-- Davis and Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher, Raleigh and Gilbert,--all the other names,-- Are written in the chivalry of God As men who served His purpose. I would claim A place among that knighthood of the sea; And I have earned it, though my quest should fail! For, mark me well, the honour of our life Derives from this: to have a certain aim Before us always, which our will must seek Amid the peril of uncertain ways. Then, though we miss the goal, our search is crowned With courage, and we find along our path A rich reward of unexpected things. Press towards the aim: take fortune as it fares!

I know not why, but something in my heart Has always whispered, "Westward seek your goal!" Three times they sent me east, but still I turned The bowsprit west, and felt among the floes Of ruttling ice along the Groneland coast, And down the rugged shore of Newfoundland, And past the rocky capes and wooded bays Where Gosnold sailed,--like one who feels his way With outstretched hand across a darkened room,-- I groped among the inlets and the isles, To find the passage to the Land of Spice. I have not found it yet,--but I have found Things worth the finding!

Son, have you forgot Those mellow autumn days, two years ago, When first we sent our little ship Half-Moon,-- The flag of Holland floating at her peak,-- Across a sandy bar, and sounded in Among the channels, to a goodly bay Where all the navies of the world could ride? A fertile island that the redmen called Manhattan, lay above the bay: the land Around was bountiful and friendly fair. But never land was fair enough to hold The seaman from the calling of the sea. And so we bore to westward of the isle, Along a mighty inlet, where the tide Was troubled by a downward-flowing flood That seemed to come from far away,--perhaps From some mysterious gulf of Tartary? Inland we held our course; by palisades Of naked rock where giants might have built Their fortress; and by rolling hills adorned With forests rich in timber for great ships; Through narrows where the mountains shut us in With frowning cliffs that seemed to bar the stream; And then through open reaches where the banks Sloped to the water gently, with their fields Of corn and lentils smiling in the sun. Ten days we voyaged through that placid land, Until we came to shoals, and sent a boat Upstream to find,--what I already knew,-- We travelled on a river, not a strait.

But what a river! God has never poured A stream more royal through a land more rich. Even now I see it flowing in my dream, While coming ages people it with men Of manhood equal to the river's pride. I see the wigwams of the redmen changed To ample houses, and the tiny plots Of maize and green tobacco broadened out To prosperous farms, that spread o'er hill and dale The many-coloured mantle of their crops; I see the terraced vineyard on the slope Where now the fox-grape loops its tangled vine; And cattle feeding where the red deer roam; And wild-bees gathered into busy hives, To store the silver comb with golden sweet; And all the promised land begins to flow With milk and honey. Stately manors rise Along the banks, and castles top the hills, And little villages grow populous with trade, Until the river runs as proudly as the Rhine,-- The thread that links a hundred towns and towers! And looking deeper in my dream, I see A mighty city covering the isle They call Manhattan, equal in her state To all the older capitals of earth,-- The gateway city of a golden world,-- A city girt with masts, and crowned with spires, And swarming with a host of busy men, While to her open door across the bay The ships of all the nations flock like doves. My name will be remembered there, for men Will say, "This river and this isle were found By Henry Hudson, on his way to seek The Northwest Passage into Farthest Inde." Yes! yes! I sought it then, I seek it still,-- My great adventure and my guiding star! For look ye, friends, our voyage is not done; We hold by hope as long as life endures! Somewhere among these floating fields of ice, Somewhere along this westward widening bay, Somewhere beneath this luminous northern night, The channel opens to the Orient,-- I know it,--and some day a little ship Will push her bowsprit in, and battle through! And why not ours,--to-morrow,--who can tell? The lucky chance awaits the fearless heart! These are the longest days of all the year; The world is round and God is everywhere, And while our shallop floats we still can steer. So point her up, John King, nor'west by north. We'll keep the honour of a certain aim Amid the peril of uncertain ways, And sail ahead, and leave the rest to God.

Oberhofen, July, 1909.


The White Bees - 11/11

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