Oh, Masters, you who rule the world,
Will you not wait with me awhile,
When swords are sheathed and sails are furled,
And all the fields with harvest smile?
I would not waste your time for long,
I ask you but, when you are tired,
To read how by the weak, the strong
Are weighed and worshipped and desired.
When weary of the Mart, the Loom,
The Withering-house, the Riffle-blocks,
The Barrack-square, the Engine-room,
The pick-axe, ringing on the rocks,--
When tents are pitched and work is done,
While restful twilight broods above,
By fresh-lit lamp, or dying sun,
See in my songs how women love.
We shared your lonely watch by night,
We knew you faithful at the helm,
Our thoughts went with you through the fight,
That saved a soul,--or wrecked a realm
Ah, how our hearts leapt forth to you,
In pride and joy, when you prevailed,
And when you died, serene and true:
--We wept in silence when you failed!
Oh, brain that did not gain the gold!
Oh, arm, that could not wield the sword,
Here is the love, that is not sold,
Here are the hearts to hail you Lord!
You played and lost the game? What then?
The rules are harsh and hard we know,
You, still, Oh, brothers, are the men
Whom we in secret reverence so.
Your work was waste? Maybe your share
Lay in the hour you laughed and kissed;
Who knows but what your son shall wear
The laurels that his father missed?
Ay, you who win, and you who lose,
Whether you triumph,--or despair,--
When your returning footsteps choose
The homeward track, our love is there.
For, since the world is ordered thus,
To you the fame, the stress, the sword,
We can but wait, until to us
You give yourselves, for our reward.
To Whaler's deck and Coral beach,
To lonely Ranch and Frontier-Fort,
Beyond the narrow bounds of speech
I lay the cable of my thought.
I fain would send my thanks to you,
(Though who am I, to give you praise?)
Since what you are, and work you do,
Are lessons for our easier ways.
'Neath alien stars your camp-fires glow,
I know you not,--your tents are far.
My hope is but in song to show,
How honoured and dear you are.