“When the Great Ark”

Rudyard Kipling

WHEN the Great Ark, in Vigo Bay,
    Rode stately through the half-manned fleet,
From every ship about her way
    She heard the mariners entreat—
“Before we take the seas again
Let down your boats and send us men!

“We have no lack of victual here
    With work—God knows!—enough for all,
To hand and reef and watch and steer,
    Because our present strength is small.
While your three decks are crowded so
Your crews can scarcely stand or go.

“In war, your numbers do but raise
    Confusion and divided will;
In storm, the mindless deep obeys
    Not multitudes but single skill.
In calm, your numbers, closely pressed,
Must breed a mutiny or pest.

“We, even on unchallenged seas,
    Dare not adventure where we would,
But forfeit brave advantages
    For lack of men to make ’em good;
Whereby, to England’s double cost,
Honour and profit both are lost!”

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