Oh for the breath of the briny deep,
And the tug of a bellying sail,
With the sea-gull’s cry across the sky
And a passing boatman’s hail.
For, be she fierce or be she gay,
The sea is a famous friend alway.
Ho! For the plains where the dolphins play,
And the bend of the mast and spars,
And a fight at night with the wild sea-sprite
When the foam has drowned the stars.
And, pray, well
Like the rise and fall of a sliding keel?
Fair is the mead; the lawn is fair
And the birds sing sweet on the lea;
But echo soft of a song aloft
Is the strain that pleases me;
And swish of rope and ring of chain
Are music to men who sail the main.
Then, if you love me, let me sail
While a vessel dares the deep;
For the ship’s wife, and the breath of life
Are the raging gales that sweep;
And when I’m done with the calm and blast,
A slide o’er the side, and rest at last.
–Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1899