Gateway to the Classics: Poems Every Child Should Know by Mary E. Burt
Poems Every Child Should Know by  Mary E. Burt

The Ship of State

A president of a well-known college writes me that "The Ship of State" was his favourite poem when he was a boy, and did more than any other to shape his course in life. Longfellow (1807-82).

Sail on, sail on, O Ship of State!

Sail on, O Union, strong and great!

Humanity, with all its fears,

With all the hopes of future years,

Is hanging breathless on thy fate!

We know what Master laid thy keel,

What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,

Who made each mast, and sail, and rope;

What anvils rang, what hammers beat,

In what a forge and what a heat

Were forged the anchors of thy hope!

Fear not each sudden sound and shock—

'Tis of the wave, and not the rock;

'Tis but the flapping of the sail,

And not a rent made by the gale!

In spite of rock, and tempest roar,

In spite of false lights on the shore,

Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!

Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.

Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,

Our faith, triumphant o'er our fears,

Are all with thee, are all with thee!

Henry W. Longfellow.

The Constitution and Laws are here personified, and addressed as "The Ship of State."

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