Land & Sea Tales

A Departure

Rudyard Kipling

SINCE first the White Horse Banner blew free,
    By Hengist’s horde unfurled,
Nothing has changed on land or sea
    Of the things that steer the world.
(As it was when the long-ships scudded through the gale
    So it is where the Liners go.)
Time and Tide, they are both in a tale
    “Woe to the weaker—woe!”

No charm can bridle the hard-mouthed wind
    Or smooth the fretting swell.
No gift can alter the grey Sea’s mind,
    But she serves the strong man well.
(As it is when her uttermost deeps are stirred
    So it is where the quicksands show,)
All the waters have but one word—
    “Woe to the weaker—woe!”

The feast is ended, the tales are told,
    The dawn is overdue,
And we meet on the quay in the whistling cold
    Where the galley waits her crew.
Out with the torches, they have flared too long,
    And bid the harpers go.
Wind and warfare have but one song—
    “Woe to the weaker—woe!”

Hail to the great oars gathering way,
    As the beach begins to slide!
Hail to the war-shields’ click and play
    As they lift along our side!
Hail to the first wave over the bow—
    Slow for the sea-stroke! Slow!—
All the benches are grunting now:—
    “Woe to the weaker—woe!

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