The Ways of Many Waters [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Ways of Many Waters (1899).]


The Ways of Many Waters.

Because of a painted Fancy
That is neither old nor new,
The path of the further distance
It seemeth for aye more true:
For this have the Dreamers wandered
Forlorn, on a golden quest,
Their sails in the sunset dipping
Aslant to the reddened West:

For this have the Rovers journeyed,
Subtle and strange though it seem,
Spelled by the shade of a shadow,
Lured by the loot of a dream.
And so doth the Great Fleet gather,
The fleet of a thousand sail,
With a long-oared galley leading
And a liner at the tail.

They sweep with a song from Sidon,
The song of an old desire,
They come with a crash of trumpets
Out from the quays of Tyre;
Along on the open waters
Will their leaping galleys line,
To trade with our tattooed fathers
The trinkets of Palestine.

Evoe! and a cup to Bacchus
The Lycian seaman pours,
Then kisses his dark-haired Phryne
And springs to the straining oars . .
Hard down, by the mole at Pharos,
The Rhodian ketos bides
The hour of the sacred augur,
The time of the wheeling tides.

They swing from their yellow Tiber
Into the laughing seas.
With gifts to the gods in passing
The Pillars of Hercules;
The gleam of imperial purple
On imperial ocean falls,
The flag of the legion flutters,
The stern centurion calls . . .

Now, loud is the shout of wassail,
And the Northern eagle shrieks,
As the Viking’s men come crowding
Out from the bays and the creeks —
Sons of the snows and the forests,
High in the forehead and bold.
Strong, with the love of strong women,
Sturdy to take and to hold . . .

They glide, with a chant of lovers,
Into the sleeping lagune —
The sails of the great Doge, gleaming
Silver and silk in the moon;
While far in the East she glimmers
On Indian argosies
That bear to the sun’s red rising
The trade of the Genoese . . .

But now ’t is a rowdy rabble
That chatters on Palos pier,
As up from the Unknown Ocean
A torn sail rises clear,
And a calm World-finder cometh —
Not as the Conquerors came,
Loud, with the blazon of pennons,
Clamoring favour of Fame . . .

And lo, from an English harbour,
In his jerkin brown a rose,
With a broad sword in his scabbard,
The sturdy John Cabot goes:
Westward and westward forever,
But ever of stout intent
To claim for his burly monarch
Fair share of a Continent.

And now ’t is a white-haired Spaniard
Seeking, in travail and ruth,
The place of the fabled waters,
The fount of enduring youth;
The gallants of gay De Soto
Bear out on the seas again,
And Cortes, with banners trailing,
Heels down for the Western main.

The shout of Balboa echoes
Across the Pacific waste,
And free from St. Malo harbor
Brave Cartier wears in haste:
The sun on their mail to glisten,
The sun on their swords to glance,
A kiss for the mistress weeping,
Then, hey for the lilies of France!

They waddle away together,
Round-bellied, from Rotterdam,
To trade in the Eastern Islands.
Or barter in Surinam;
Or far to the South’ard creeping
With their courage strained and worn,
They steal from the mystic harbours
Of a lone new land forlorn.

Now low on the Southern oceans
The gleam of their lonely sails,
Where Tasman undaunted has weathered
The Cape of a Thousand Gales;
Where Hartog is boldly sailing
Into Australian seas,
One eye on the chance of plunder,
And one on the Portuguese.

They dart from the nooks and crannies
White eagles athirst for prey,
Room for a little adventure,
And plenty of room to play;
With letters of marque that cover
A slip, if it endeth so,
Then back to their friendly harbour
Full tilt, with the prize in tow.

They stand with their port-fires lighted
To rake them over and through,
For the sake of their golden ingots
And the sake of derring-do;
They riddle their timbers gaily,
And up on their high decks spring, —
With cheers for the English lasses,
And thrusts for the English King.

They reel, with a drunken chanty,
Loading their swivels amain,
Be-ribanded robbers cheering
The black flag up to the main;
The pick of their ocean plunder,
The loot of a half-score loads,
To scatter among the ladies —
Of pleasure — in Whydah Roads.

And a low black hull still crosses
The face o’ the moon away,
And again the night re-echoes
The shout of the turbaned Dey;
And the night-wind moans and shivers,
But the Dago seaman swears
’T is a ghostly Rover, chiding
His Barbary corsairs!

The Company’s fleet is booming
Along on the Sou’-East trade,
And the braw East India clipper
On her outward course is laid;
She cheers to the rolling troopship
That buckles into the gale,
A reef in her straining topsails,
The red rag over the rail.

They dip from the docks of Lunnon,
And out of Cork Harbour go,
The immigrant tubs full listed —
“God bless ye!” and “South’ard-ho!”
Aye, South’ard and South’ard ever,
The gallant old ships of teak,
To lie at the banks o’ Yarra
With their spreading yards apeak.

Aye, South’ard and West’ard bravely,
Since ever the years were born,
They battle the wild Atlantic,
They battle around the Horn,
With the California clipper
Dainty and deep in the beam,
And the Austral clipper racing
Ahead of the days of steam!

* * * *

’T is a lordly, long convention
Foregathering day by day,
From the Mayflower bravely beating
Her passage to Cape Cod bay,
From the trim old wooden traders,
Who smuggled their silks and lace,
To the steel-built Cunard packet
With her record-making pace.

They sleep in the deep, dark places,
The fleets of the days gone by;
But oft when the flaked sea-fires
To the churning screw-beats fly,
At the sound of a faint, sad music,
The lilt of an old-time tune,
They rise from their grave of waters
To ride ’neath the quiet moon:

The ships of the Dreamers gather —
They gather at dead of night
Till the face of the deep, dark places
With their crowding sail grows white;
And then, in a grand procession,
Away to the West they sail,
With a long-oared galley leading
And a liner at the tail.

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 1-8

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