The Great War

from War, The Liberator and Other Pieces, an electronic edition

The Ship of the Soul

To E.J.S


LONG ago in the dawn of nations

Wisdom in Egypt dreamed a dream,

The ship of the soul of man a-sailing

Over the Nile's god-haunted stream.

Tired the travellers young and aged

Voyaging in from near and far,

Swift and surely the strong oars bore them

Down to the glorious feet of Ra.


Dust is wisdom, its dream forgotten,

But still in the light of the setting sun

The ships of the souls of men go seeking

The harbour that waits for everyone;

Still in the current the strong oars quiver

In changing rapids the light boats roll,

Quiet is Nile, but on life's broad river

Still puts forth the ship of the soul.


Ship after ship puts into harbour,

Little bright towns by the riverside,

And there is joy and feasting and dancing

And fair glad maidens starry-eyed,

One by one do the ships drop anchor,

One by one in the roads they lie,

Each one comes to his own home harbour,

Every one but you and I.


Why can we not stay? we that are wanting

Nothing more than the others are,

A wife by the fire and a hearth to warm us,

Anchorage safe in the harbour far.

But in the midst of feasting and loving,

Soft as the touch of a wizard's wand,

The wind and the sound of the water call us,

"Come, there are better things beyond."


Others may find their loves and keep them,

But for us two there still shall be

A kinder heart and a fairer city,

The home and wife we shall never see.

Lost adventurers, watching ever

Over the toss of the tricksy foam,

Many a joyous port and city,

Never the harbour lights of home.