Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
The Derelict

 “And reports the derelict ‘Mary Pollock’ still at sea”

I WAS the staunchest of our fleet
  Till the sea rose beneath my feet
Unheralded, in hatred past all measure.
  Into his pits he stamped my crew,
  Buffeted, blinded, bound and threw,        5
Bidding me eyeless wait upon his pleasure.
    Man made me, and my will
    Is to my maker still,
Whom now the currents con, the rollers steer—
    Lifting forlorn to spy        10
    Trailed smoke along the sky,
Falling afraid lest any keel come near!
    Wrenched as the lips of thirst,
    Wried, dried, and split and burst,
Bone-bleached my decks, wind-scoured to the graining;        15
    And, jarred at every roll,
    The gear that was my soul
Answers the anguish of my beams’ complaining.
    For life that crammed me full,
    Gangs of the prying gull        20
That shriek and scrabble on the riven hatches.
    For roar that dumbed the gale,
    My hawse-pipes’ guttering wail,
Sobbing my heart out through the uncounted watches.
    Blind in the hot blue ring        25
    Through all my points I swing—
Swing and return to shift the sun anew.
    Blind in my well-known sky
    I hear the stars go by,
Mocking the prow that cannot hold one true.        30
    White on my wasted path
    Wave after wave in wrath
Frets ’gainst his fellow, warring where to send me.
    Flung forward, heaved aside,
    Witless and dazed I bide        35
The mercy of the comber that shall end me.
    North where the bergs careen,
    The spray of seas unseen
Smokes round my head and freezes in the falling.
    South where the corals breed,        40
    The footless, floating weed
Folds me and fouls me, strake on strake upcrawling.
    I that was clean to run
    My race against the sun—
Strength on the deep—am bawd to all disaster;        45
    Whipped forth by night to meet
    My sister’s careless feet,
And with a kiss betray her to my master.
    Man made me, and my will
    Is to my maker still—        50
To him and his, our peoples at their pier:
    Lifting in hope to spy
    Trailed smoke along the sky,
Falling afraid lest any keel come near!

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