Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind, the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores;
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: “Now must we pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Adm’r’l, speak: what shall I say?”
“Why say: ‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’”
“My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak.”
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
“What shall I say, brave Adm’r’l, say
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?”
“Why, you shall say at break of day:
‘Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!’”
They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
“Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way;
For God from these dread seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Adm’r’l; speak and say—”
He said: “Sail on! sail on! and on!”
They sailed: they sailed. Then spake the mate:
“This mad sea shows his teeth tonight;
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Adm’r’l, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?”
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
“Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!”
Then, pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck—
A light! a light! a light! a light!
It grew; a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: “On! sail on!”
After posting "Columbus", ACP adds this coda, with which I heartily agree.
On Columbus Day I honor a faithful Christian who had a dream to spread the faith of Christ throughout the globe and the courage to make that dream a reality. Historians and critics will argue about Columbus until the final trump, but what he accomplished is a reality that will withstand all analysis and criticism. Let us give the Admiral of the Ocean Sea the last word. “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”