The Ships of Saint John

Original Text: 
Bliss Carman, Later Poems (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1921), pp. 7-9. PS 8455 A7A17 1921 Robarts Library.
1Where are the ships I used to know,
3Half a century ago,
4     In beauty and stately pride?
5In they would come past the beacon light,
6     With the sun on gleaming sail and spar,
7Folding their wings like birds in flight
8     From countries strange and far.
10     I watched them slow as the sails were furled,
11And wondered what cities they must have seen
12     On the other side of the world.
13Frenchman and Britisher and Dane,
14     Yankee, Spaniard and Portugee,
15And many a home ship back again
16     With her stories of the sea.
17Calm and victorious, at rest
18     From the relentless, rough sea-play,
19The wild duck on the river's breast
20     Was not more sure than they.
21The creatures of a passing race,
22     The dark spruce forests made them strong,
23The sea's lore gave them magic grace,
24     The great winds taught them song.
25And God endowed them each with life--
26     His blessing on the craftsman's skill--
27To meet the blind unreasoned strife
28     And dare the risk of ill.
29Not mere insensate wood and paint
30     Obedient to the helm's command,
31But often restive as a saint
32     Beneath the Heavenly hand.
33All the beauty and mystery
34     Of life were there, adventure bold,
35Youth, and the glamour of the sea
36     And all its sorrows old.
37And many a time I saw them go
38     Out on the flood at morning brave,
39As the little tugs had them in tow,
40     And the sunlight danced on the wave.
41There all day long you could hear the sound
44     As the great tides rose and fell.
45The sailors' songs, the Captain's shout,
46     The boatswain's whistle piping shrill,
47And the roar as the anchor chain runs out,--
48     I often hear them still.
49I can see them still, the sun on their gear,
50     The shining streak as the hulls careen,
51And the flag at the peak unfurling,--clear
52     As a picture on a screen.
53The fog still hangs on the long tide-rips,
54     The gulls go wavering to and fro,
55But where are all the beautiful ships
56     I knew so long ago?

Notes

2] Fundy tide: the Bay of Fundy off Saint John has among the highest tides in the world. Back to Line
9] barkentine: three-masted sailing ship. Back to Line
42] caulking: making the seams of a ship watertight Back to Line
43] capstan: rotating shaft used to raise or shift large weights by means of a winding cable. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1893
Publication Notes: 
1st version in Canadian Magazine (Dec. 1893) and Ballads of Lost Haven: A Book of the Sea (Boston: Lamson, Wolffe, 1897), pp. 55-58
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Rhyme: