The Glory of Ships

by Henry Van Dyke

The glory of ships is an old, old song,
since the days when the sea-rovers ran
In their open boats through the roaring surf,
and the spread of the world began;
The glory of ships is a light on the sea,
and a star in the story of man.

When Homer sang of the galleys of Greece
that conquered the Trojan shore,
And Solomon lauded the barks of Tyre that
brought great wealth to his door,
'Twas little they knew, those ancient men,
what would come of the sail and the oar.

The Greek ships rescued the West from the East,
when they harried the Persians home;
And the Roman ships were the wings of strength
that bore up the empire, Rome;
And the ships of Spain found a wide new world,
far over the fields of foam.

Then the tribes of courage at last saw clear
that the ocean was not a bound,
But a broad highway, and a challenge to seek
for treasure as yet unfound;
So the fearless ships fared forth to the search,
in joy that the globe was round.

Their hulls were heightened, their sails spread out,
they grew with the growth of their quest;
They opened the secret doors of the East,
and the golden gates of the West;
And many a city of high renown
was proud of a ship on its crest.

The fleets of England and Holland and France
were at strife with each other and Spain;
And battle and storm sent a myriad ships
to sleep in the depths of the main;
But the seafaring spirit could never be drowned,
and it filled up the fleets again.

They greatened and grew, with the aid of steam,
to a wonderful, vast array,
That carries the thoughts and the traffic of men
into every harbor and bay;
And now in the world-wide work of the ships
'tis England that leads the way.

O well for the leading that follows the law
of a common right on the sea!
But ill for the leader who tries to hold
what belongs to mankind in fee!
The way of the ships is an open way,
and the ocean must ever be free!

Remember, O first of the maritime folk,
how the rise of your greatness began.
It will live if you safeguard the round-the-world road
from the shame of a selfish ban;
For the glory of ships is a light on the sea,
and a star in the story of man!

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