Verse > Anthologies > Augustin S. Macdonald, comp. > A Collection of Verse by California Poets
Augustin S. Macdonald, comp.  A Collection of Verse by California Poets.  1914.
By Joaquin Miller
BEHIND him lay the gray Azores,
  Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him on the ghost of shores,
  Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: “Now we must pray,        5
  For lo, the very stars are gone.
Brave Adm’r’l speak; what shall I say?”
  “Why say: ‘Sail on! sail on! sail on!’”
“My men grow mutinous day by day;
  My men grow ghastly wan and weak.”        10
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
  Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
“What shall I say, brave Adm’r’l, say,
  If we sight naught but seas at dawn!”
“Why you shall say at break of day:        15
  ‘Sail on! sail on! sail on! sail on!’”
They sailed and sailed, as the winds might blow
  Until at last the blanched mate said:
“Why, not even God would know
  Should I and all my men fall dead.        20
These very winds forgot their way,
  For God from these dread seas is gone,
Now speak, brave Adm’r’l; speak and say”—
  He said: “Sail on! sail on! sail on!”
They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:        25
  “This mad sea shows its teeth tonight.
He curls his lips, he lies in wait,
  With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Adm’r’l, say but one good word;
  What shall we do when hope is gone!”        30
The words leapt as a leaping sword:
  “Sail on! sail on! sail on! sail on!”
Then, pale and worn, he kept his deck,
  And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck—        35
  A light! A light! A light! A light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
  It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
  Its grandest lesson: “On! sail on!”        40

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