The Great Sea Fight

IN my watch on deck at the turn of the night
      I saw the spindrift rise,
And I saw by the thin moon's waning light
      The sheen of dead men's eyes.
They rose from the wave in armor bright,
      The men who never knew fear;
They rose with their swords to their hips strapped tight,
      And stripped to their fighting gear.

I hauled below, but to and fro
      I saw the dead men glide,
With never a plank their bones to tow,
      As the slippery seas they ride.
While the bale-star burned where the mists swayed low
      They clasped each hand to hand,
And swore an oath by the winds that blow —
      They swore by the sea and land.

They swore to fight till the Judgment Day,
      Each night ere the cock should crow,
Where the thunders boom and the lightnings play
      In the wrack of the battle-glow.
They swore by Drake and Plymouth Bay,
      The men of the Good Hope's crew,
By the bones that lay in fierce Biscay;
      And they swore by Craddock, too —

That every night, ere the dawn flamed red,
      For each man there should be twain
Upon the ships that make their bed
      Where England rules the main.
They pledged — and the ghost of Nelson led —
      When the last ship's gunner fell
They would man the guns — these men long dead —
      And ram the charges well.

So we'll choose the night for the Great Sea Fight,
      Nor ever give chase by day;
Our compeers rise in the white moonlight,
      In the wash of the flying spray;
And if we fall in the battle-blight,
      The shade of a man long dead
Fights on till dawn on the sea burns bright
      And Victory, overhead!