Sagas of Vaster Britain: Poems of the Race, the Empire and the Divinity of Man

by William Wilfred Campbell


 

TO THE SPIRIT OF HENDRICK HUDSON

CONCERNING THE JOURNEY OF EARLY GREY THROUGH HUDSON BAY, A.D. 1910


 

COLDLY in splendour descends
The Arctic evening. The waste
Of desolate waters, thy sea
Washes its isolate shores;
And on its far reaches a sail,
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Lonely, outcast, and forlorn—
Like solitary bird, with wing
Wounded and broken and spent,
Seeking in vain its nest
On some dim, oceanward crag—
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Glimmers a space, and is gone.

But thou wert not outcast,
Great soul of the seafaring blood,
Thou pioneer pilot of dreams,
Thou finder of oceans remote

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In the ultimate Empires of man.
Hendrick Hudson, ’tis here
That thou hast graven thy name,
To be a word of great need
In the thoughts of men for all time,
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Not in thy mighty stream,
Splendid and vast, of the south,
Where, ’twixt its mountainward walls,
It surges beneficent tides,
Triumphant and glad, to the main:
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But here, in thy northern wastes
Of the short red summers of joy
And the long dark winters of dream,
Is the gulf of thy world-fame to be,
Great Englishman! outfaring soul
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Immortal! with that high band,
Bold Raleigh and Franklin and Drake,
Thy brother pilots, where surge
Heaves on the crimson edge
Of Ocean’s ultimate rim,
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O’er horizons of vastness and morn.

Here, where thou criedst Sail on!
Sail on! sail on! till we come
To the long-lost passage; that path
From Europe to furthermost Ind:—

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That road once open, when man,
In that rare golden age of the past,
Did compass all earth in a span
Of godlike effort and dream.

This road which thine innermost soul

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Knew well earth’s seeker must find—
As find it he shall some day;
And prove that high courage, that faith
Which led thee onward, great soul!
Out on thy last dread voyage;—
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But left thee forsaken, forlorn,
Betrayed and lost, but not quelled,
Only thy trust in God left,
On those drifts of thy desolate main—
This unknown gulf of thy North,
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Where in days of a future unborn,
In splendid results of thy deed,
Thou wilt find thee, and triumph again.

For in this dim, distant day
Of a duller, less venturesome age,

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In this dawn of the century to come,
Another great Englishman, strong,
Like thee, in courage and faith
And effort godlike, to achieve
Some good for the weal of the race,
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Hath dared thy grim, desolate sea,
And found it a highway benign,
A gateway of commerce to bind
Imperial ties in its gleam.

Here in this song rude-forged,

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But sincere in its burden and theme,
I couple his name with thine,
Thou famed seafarer! he, first
Great viceroy of Britain to reap
Splendid achievement from that
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Sad, tragic end of thy dream.

Thou, going out in defeat,
Seeming, not real; marooned,
Adrift in a shallop, to find
Those far-sought coasts of thy vision

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But fabled mirage of the mind;—
He, in a spirit like thine,
Venturing perilous seas,
Voyaging desolate vasts,
Scorning all danger and dread,
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Daring thy treacherous shoals
And lonely ice mountains, to prove
A North-east Passage-way home.

He, like thee intrepid,
Dauntless, guided by one

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Great thought, great hope, and desire
To serve his Empire and race;—
Strong in one high resolve
To conquer, to prove, to achieve,
And throttle all failure and doubt;
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Counting all else but as naught,
Save that the truth should prevail
In the destiny great of his race,
And the making of God’s way man’s.