I have known a number of old salts who are no longer around. They have made their final voyage. To them I dedicate the following poems which are memorable on account of their moving imagery and heartfelt words. I trust that others will be touched as well by these beautiful verses.

The Old Sailor

by Margaret Elizabeth Sangster (American, 1838–1912)

I’ve crossed the bar at last, mates,
My longest voyage is done;
And I can sit here, peaceful,
And watch th’ setting sun
A-smilin’ kind of glad like
Upon the waves so free.
My longest voyage is done, mates,
But oh, the heart of me,
Is out where sea meets skyline!
My longest voyage is done. . . .
But — can I sit, in peace, mates,
And watch the settin’ sun?

For what’s a peaceful life, mates,
When every breeze so free,
When every gale a-blowin’,
Brings messages to me?
And is the sky so shinin’,
For all it’s golden sun,
To one who loves the sea, mates,
And knows his voyage is done?
And, can a year on land, mates,
Match with one day — at sea?
Ah, every wind a-singin’
Brings memory to me!

I’ve crossed the bar at last, mates,
My longest voyage is past,
And I must watch the sunset,
Must see it fade, at last.
My steps are not so light, mates,
As they were, years ago;
And sometimes, when I’m tired,
My head droops kind of low —
Yet, though I’m old and — weary,
The waves that dance so free,
Keep callin’ to my soul, mates,
And thrill the heart of me!

It tossed – and tossed –

by Emily Dickinson (American, 1830–1886)

It tossed – and tossed –
A little Brig I knew – o’ertook by Blast –
It spun – and spun –
And groped delirious, for Morn –

It slipped – and slipped –
As One that drunken – stept –
Its white foot tripped –
Then dropped from sight –

Ah, Brig – Good Night
To Crew and You –
The Ocean’s Heart too smooth – too Blue –
To break for You –

Bilbo’s Last Song (at the Grey Havens)

By J.R.R. Tolkien (English, 1892–1973)

Bilbo’s Last Song (at the Grey Havens) is a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien, written as a pendant to his fantasy The Lord of the Rings. It was first published in a Dutch translation in 1973, subsequently appearing in English on posters in 1974 and as a picture-book in 1990. [from Wikipedia.org]

Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.

Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!

Si mi voz muriera en tierra (If my voice dies on land)

by Rafael Alberti (Spanish, 1902–1999)

The short and soulful Spanish poem is accompanied by my English translation.  The original text was made into a song by Alfredo González Vilela, a Galician singer-songwriter. Click here to play and download the song. — Barista Uno

Si mi voz muriera en tierra
llevadla al nivel del mar
y dejadla en la ribera.

Llevadla al nivel del mar
y nombardla capitana
de un blanco bajel de guerra.

¡Oh mi voz condecorada
con la insignia marinera:
sobre el corazón un ancla
y sobre el ancla una estrella
y sobre la estrella el viento
y sobre el viento la vela!

If my voice dies on land
take it down to the sea
and leave it on the shore.

Take it down to the sea
and name her captain
of a white vessel of war.

Oh my voice adorned
with the sailor insignia:
an anchor over the heart
and above the anchor a star
and above the star the wind
and above the wind the sail!

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