BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
HERE 's the old cruiser, 'Twenty-nine,
Forty times she 's crossed the line;
Same old masts and sails and crew,
Tight and tough and as good as new.
Into the harbor she bravely steers
Just as she 's done for these forty years,--
Over her anchor goes, splash and clang!
Down her sails drop, rattle and bang!
Comes a vessel out of the dock
Fresh and spry as a fighting-cock,
Feathered with sails and spurred with steam,
Heading out of the classic stream.
Crew of a hundred all aboard,
Every man as fine as a lord.
Gay they look and proud they feel,
Bowling along on even keel.
On they float with wind and tide,--
Gain at last the old ship's side;
Every man looks down in turn,--
Reads the name that 's on her stern.
That was in Skipper Kirkland's day!
What was the Flying Dutchman's name?
This old rover must be the same.
"Ho! you Boatswain that walks the deck,
How does it happen you 're not a wreck?
One and another have come to grief,
How have you dodged by rock and reef?"
--Boatswain, lifting one knowing lid,
Hitches his breeches and shifts his quid:
"Hey? What is it? Who 's come to grief?
Louder, young swab, I 'm a little deaf."
"I say, old fellow, what keeps your boat
With all you jolly old boys afloat,
When scores of vessels as good as she
Have swallowed the salt of the bitter sea?
"Many a crew from many a craft
Goes drifting by on a broken raft
Pieced from a vessel that clove the brine
Taller and prouder than 'Twenty-nine.
"Some capsized in an angry breeze,
Some were lost in the narrow seas,
Some on snags and some on sands
Struck and perished and lost their hands.
"Tell us young ones, you gray old man,
What is your secret, if you can.
We have a ship as good as you,
Show us how to keep our crew."
So in his ear the youngster cries;
Then the gray Boatswain straight replies:--
"All your crew be sure you know,--
Never let one of your shipmates go.
"If he leaves you, change your tack,
Follow him close and fetch him back;
When you 've hauled him in at last,
Grapple his flipper and hold him fast.
"If you 've wronged him, speak him fair,
Say you 're sorry and make it square;
If he 's wronged you, wink so tight
None of you see what 's plain in sight.
"When the world goes hard and wrong,
Lend a hand to help him along;
When his stockings have holes to darn,
Don't you grudge him your ball of yarn.
"Once in a twelvemonth, come what may,
Anchor your ship in a quiet bay,
Call all hands and read the log,
And give 'em a taste of grub and grog.
"Stick to each other through thick and thin;
All the closer as age leaks in;
Squalls will blow and clouds will frown,
But stay by your ship till you all go down!"
ADDED FOR THE ALUMNI MEETING,
JUNE 29, 1869.
So the gray Boatswain of 'Twenty-nine
Piped to "The Boys" as they crossed the line;
Round the cabin sat thirty guests,
Babes of the nurse with a thousand breasts.
There were the judges, grave and grand,
Flanked by the priests on either hand;
There was the lord of wealth untold,
And the dear good fellow in broadcloth old.
Thirty men, from twenty towns,
Sires and grandsires with silvered crowns,--
Thirty school-boys all in a row,--
Bens and Georges and Bill and Joe.
In thirty goblets the wine was poured,
But threescore gathered around the board,--
For lo! at the side of every chair
A shadow hovered--we all were there!