The Ship and the Man: 2. The Main


The sunlight glinted on the cottage wall,
Gilding its humble portal with a glow
That with Heaven’s tender radiance seemed to fall
As o’er a babe a mother crooned low.

Some little babe in early infancy,
Some little babe as yet unknown to fame,
Some little babe to find life’s mystery,
Some little babe for honour or for shame.

‘John Anderson’ his name, and on his brow
The sprinkled water made the heavenly sign;
The baby christened, he is ready now
For all that life may to his lot assign.

He grew apace, a handsome boy and good,
And was the apple of his mother’s eye;
He learned to read, to write, say what he should,
And was aware of Providence on high.

He pleased his teacher in the village school,
Who said no boy more willing could be found;
And then upon a dizzy office stool
Became to noble occupation bound.

A proud day for his mother when he brought
To her the first week’s wages he had earned,
And by and by a book or two he bought,
And more and more of useful things he learned.

And day by day his reputation grew,
And day by day his knowledge grew apace:
His character was sound, his master knew
Where he could trust, because of heavenly grace.

Responsibility more on his fell,
He was promoted to a greater task;
His conscience sound, his purpose led him well,
And he did all that anyone could ask.

Then acting on advice he started out
To carve alone an honourable career;
Success was due to him without a doubt,
For keeping true to all he held most dear.

His rudder was his conscience; warmed by love,
It held him true through life’s demands and stress,
As he was conscious of a God above
He could not be o’erwhelmed by his success.

But o’er his path the threatening clouds did lower!
Temptation subtly luring crossed his way,
And listening to it felt its evil power,
And gradually yielded to its sway.

One step he took, but one was quite enough
To plant his feet upon the downward grade;
His conscience weakened, that was once so tough,
And died at last by evil thoughts betrayed.

As helpless as a child he whirled about,
The plaything now of forces bent to kill!
His rudder gone, his ruin left no doubt,
Now power to save him had that magic skill.

His reputation from him quickly torn,
He was despised by all well-thinking men;
Embittered by their unrelenting scorn;
He slid at last beyond all human ken.

A churl, an outcast, that was all! No more
To show what he was once, and had become;
And to that loved one who had set her store
The news was brought that he would not come home.

End of Part 2