The Last Watch

A poem by William Bliss Carman

Comrades, comrades, have me buried
Like a warrior of the sea,
With a flag across my breast
And my sword upon my knee.

Steering out from vanished headlands
For a harbor on no chart,
With the winter in the rigging,
With the ice-wind in my heart,

Down the bournless slopes of sea-room,
With the long gray wake behind,
I have sailed my cruiser steady
With no pilot but the wind.

Battling with relentless pirates
From the lower seas of Doom,
I have kept the colors flying
Through the roar of drift and gloom.

Scudding where the shadow foemen
Hang about us grim and stark,
Broken spars and shredded canvas,
We are racing for the dark.

Sped and blown abaft the sunset
Like a shriek the storm has caught;
But the helm is lashed to windward,
And the sails are sheeted taut.

Comrades, comrades, have me buried
Like a warrior of the night.
I can hear the bell-buoy calling
Down below the harbor light

Steer in shoreward, loose the signal,
The last watch has been cut short;
Speak me kindly to the islesmen,
When we make the foreign port.

We shall make it ere the morning
Rolls the fog from strait and bluff;
Where the offing crimsons eastward
There is anchorage enough.

How I wander in my dreaming!
Are we northing nearer home,
Or outbound for fresh adventure
On the reeling plains of foam?

North I think it is, my comrades,
Where one heart-beat counts for ten,
Where the loving hand is loyal,
And the women's sons are men;

Where the red auroras tremble
When the polar night is still,
Lighting home the worn seafarers
To their haven in the hill.

Comrades, comrades, have me buried
Like a warrior of the North.
Lower me the long-boat, stay me
In your arms, and bear me forth;

Lay me in the sheets and row me,
With the tiller in my hand,
Row me in below the beacon
Where my sea-dogs used to land.

Has your captain lost his cunning
After leading you so far?
Row me your last league, my sea-kings;
It is safe within the bar.

Shoulder me and house me hillward,
Where the field-lark makes his bed,
So the gulls can wheel above me,
All day long when I am dead;

Where the keening wind can find me
With the April rain for guide,
And come crooning her old stories
Of the kingdoms of the tide.

Comrades, comrades, have me buried
Like a warrior of the sun;
I have carried my sealed orders
Till the last command is done.

Kiss me on the cheek for courage,
(There is none to greet me home,)
Then farewell to your old lover
Of the thunder of the foam;

For the grass is full of slumber
In the twilight world for me,
And my tired hands are slackened
From their toiling on the sea.

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