John McCrae

The Captain


            Here all the day she swings from tide to tide,
                Here all night long she tugs a rusted chain,
            A masterless hulk that was a ship of pride,
                Yet unashamed: her memories remain.

It was Nelson in the 'Captain', Cape St. Vincent far alee,
    With the 'Vanguard' leading s'uth'ard in the haze —
Little Jervis and the Spaniards and the fight that was to be,
Twenty-seven Spanish battleships, great bullies of the sea,
    And the 'Captain' there to find her day of days.

Right into them the 'Vanguard' leads, but with a sudden tack
    The Spaniards double swiftly on their trail;
Now Jervis overshoots his mark, like some too eager pack,
He will not overtake them, haste he e'er so greatly back,
    But Nelson and the 'Captain' will not fail.

Like a tigress on her quarry leaps the 'Captain' from her place,
    To lie across the fleeing squadron's way:
Heavy odds and heavy onslaught, gun to gun and face to face,
Win the ship a name of glory, win the men a death of grace,
    For a little hold the Spanish fleet in play.

Ended now the "Captain"'s battle, stricken sore she falls aside
    Holding still her foemen, beaten to the knee:
As the 'Vanguard' drifted past her, "Well done, 'Captain'," Jervis cried,
Rang the cheers of men that conquered, ran the blood of men that died,
    And the ship had won her immortality.

            Lo! here her progeny of steel and steam,
                A funnelled monster at her mooring swings:
            Still, in our hearts, we see her pennant stream,
                And "Well done, 'Captain'," like a trumpet rings.

About the poet
John McCrae
By the same poet
In Flanders Fields
The Anxious Dead
The Warrior
The Unconquered Dead
The Song of the Derelict
Then and Now
The Hope of My Heart
Slumber Songs
The Oldest Drama
Mine Host
The Dead Master
The Harvest of the Sea
The Dying of Pere Pierre
Upon Watts' Picture "Sic Transit"
A Song of Comfort
The Pilgrims
The Shadow of the Cross
The Night Cometh
In Due Season
Related books
John McCrae at amazon.co.uk

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