Kept up by relays of generations young
Never dies at halyards the blithe chorus sung;
While in sands, sounds, and seas where the storm-petrels cry,
Dropped mute around the globe, these halyard singers lie.
Short-lived the clippers for racing-cups that run,
And speeds in life's career many a lavish mother's-son.
But thou, manly king o' the old Splendid's crew,
The ribbons o' thy hat still a-fluttering, should fly--
A challenge, and forever, nor the bravery should rue.
Only in a tussle for the starry flag high,
When 'tis piety to do, and privilege to die.
Then, only then, would heaven think to lop
Such a cedar as the captain o' the Splendid's main-top:
A belted sea-gentleman; a gallant, off-hand
Mercutio indifferent in life's gay command.
Magnanimous in humor; when the splintering shot fell,
"Tooth-picks a-plenty, lads; thank 'em with a shell!"
Sang Larry o' the Cannakin, smuggler o' the wine,
At mess between guns, lad in jovial recline:
"In Limbo our Jack he would chirrup up a cheer,
The martinet there find a chaffing mutineer;
From a thousand fathoms down under hatches o' your Hades,
He'd ascend in love-ditty, kissing fingers to your ladies!"
Never relishing the knave, though allowing for the menial,
Nor overmuch the king, Jack, nor prodigally genial.
Ashore on liberty he flashed in escapade,
Vaulting over life in its levelness of grade,
Like the dolphin off Africa in rainbow a-sweeping--
Arch iridescent shot from seas languid sleeping.
Larking with thy life, if a joy but a toy,
Heroic in thy levity wert thou, Jack Roy.
Jack Roy by Herman Melville