You dare to say with perjured lips,
"We fight to make the ocean free"?
You, whose black trail of butchered ships
Bestrews the bed of every sea
Where German submarines have wrought
Their horrors! Have you never thought,—
What you call freedom, men call piracy!
Unnumbered ghosts that haunt the wave
Where you have murdered, cry you down;
And seamen whom you would not save,
Weave now in weed-grown depths a crown
Of shame for your imperious head,—
A dark memorial of the dead,—
Women and children whom you left to drown
Nay, not till thieves are set to guard
The gold, and corsairs called to keep
O'er peaceful commerce watch and ward,
And wolves to herd the helpless sheep,
Shall men and women look to thee—
Thou ruthless Old Man of the Sea—
To safeguard law and freedom on the deep!
In nobler breeds we put our trust:
The nations in whose sacred lore
The "Ought" stands out above the "Must,"
And Honor rules in peace and war.
With these we hold in soul and heart,
With these we choose our lot and part,
Till Liberty is safe on sea and shore.
This poem is in the public domain.
Henry van Dyke
Henry van Dyke was born on November 10, 1852. The author of The Red Flower: Poems Written in War Time (Copp Clark Co., 1917) as well as numerous books of sermons, essays, and fiction, he died in 1933.
Date Published: 2018-11-08
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/mare-liberum