Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Last Chantey
By Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)
THUS said The Lord in the Vault above the Cherubim,
  Calling to the Angels and the Souls in their degree:
    ‘Lo! Earth has pass’d away
    On the smoke of Judgment Day.
  That Our word may be establish’d shall We gather up the sea?’        5
Loud sang the souls of the jolly, jolly mariners:
  ‘Plague upon the hurricane that made us furl and flee!
    But the war is done between us,
    In the deep the Lord hath seen us—
  Our bones we’ll leave the barracout’, and God may sink the sea!’        10
Then said the soul of Judas that betrayéd Him:
  ‘Lord, hast Thou forgotten thy covenant with me?
    How once a year I go
    To cool me on the floe?
  And Ye take my day of mercy if Ye take away the sea!’        15
Then said the soul of the Angel of the Off-shore Wind:
  (He that bits the thunder when the bull-mouth’d breakers flee):
    ‘I have watch and ward to keep
    O’er thy wonders on the deep,
  And Ye take mine honour from me if Ye take away the sea!’        20
Loud sang the souls of the jolly, jolly mariners:
  ‘Nay, but we were angry, and a hasty folk are we!
    If we work’d the ship together
    Till she founder’d in foul weather,
  Are we babes that we should clamour for a vengeance on the sea?’        25
Then said the souls of the slaves that men threw overboard:
  ‘Kennell’d in the picaroon a weary band were we;
    But thy arm was strong to save,
    And it touch’d us on the wave,
  And we drowsed the long tides idle till thy Trumpets tore the sea.’        30
Then cried the soul of the stout Apostle Paul to God:
  ‘Once we frapp’d a ship, and she labour’d woundily.
    There were fourteen score of these,
    And they bless’d Thee on their knees,
  When they learn’d thy Grace and Glory under Malta by the sea!’        35
Loud sang the souls of the jolly, jolly mariners,
  Plucking at their harps, and they pluck’d unhandily:
    ‘Our thumbs are rough and tarr’d,
    And the tune is something hard—
  May we lift a Deepsea Chantey such as seamen use at sea?’        40
Then said the souls of the gentlemen-adventurers—
  Fetter’d wrist to bar all for red iniquity:
    ‘Ho, we revel in our chains
    O’er the sorrow that was Spain’s;
  Heave or sink it, leave or drink it, we were masters of the sea!’        45
Up spake the soul of a gray Gothavn ’speckshioner—
  (He that led the flinching in the fleets of fair Dundee):
    ‘O, the ice-blink white and near,
    And the bowhead breaching clear!
  Will Ye whelm them all for wantonness that wallow in the sea?’        50
Loud sang the souls of the jolly, jolly mariners,
  Crying: ‘Under Heaven, here is neither lead nor lea!
    Must we sing for evermore
    On the windless, glassy floor?
  Take back your golden fiddles and we’ll beat to open sea!’        55
Then stoop’d the Lord, and He call’d the good sea up to Him,
  And ’stablish’d his borders unto all eternity,
    That such as have no pleasure
    For to praise the Lord by measure,
  They may enter into galleons and serve Him on the sea.        60
Sun, wind, and cloud shall fail not from the face of it,
  Stinging, ringing spindrift, nor the fulmar flying free;
    And the ships shall go abroad
    To the Glory of the Lord
  Who heard the silly sailor-folk and gave them back their sea!        65

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.