The Ships of St John

Bliss Carman

    Smile, you inland hills and rivers!
    Flush, you mountains in the dawn!
    But my roving heart is seaward
    With the ships of gray St. John.

    Fair the land lies, full of August,
    Meadow island, shingly bar,
    Open barns and breezy twilight,
    Peace and the mild evening star.

    Gently now this gentlest country
    The old habitude takes on,
    But my wintry heart is outbound
    With the great ships of St. John.

    Once in your wide arms you held me,
    Till the man-child was a man,
    Canada, great nurse and mother
    Of the young sea-roving clan.

    Always your bright face above me
    Through the dreams of boyhood shone;
    Now far alien countries call me
    With the ships of gray St. John.

    Swing, you tides, up out of Fundy!
    Blow, you white fogs, in from sea!
    I was born to be your fellow;
    You were bred to pilot me.

    At the touch of your strong fingers,
    Doubt, the derelict, is gone;
    Sane and glad I clear the headland
    With the white ships of St. John.

    Loyalists, my fathers, builded
    This gray port of the gray sea,
    When the duty to ideals
    Could not let well-being be.

    When the breadth of scarlet bunting
    Puts the wreath of maple on,
    I must cheer too,--slip my moorings
    With the ships of gray St. John.

    Peerless-hearted port of heroes,
    Be a word to lift the world,
    Till the many see the signal
    Of the few once more unfurled.

    Past the lighthouse, past the nunbuoy,
    Past the crimson rising sun,
    There are dreams go down the harbor
    With the tall ships of St. John.

    In the morning I am with them
    As they clear the island bar,--
    Fade, till speck by speck the midday
    Has forgotten where they are.

    But I sight a vaster sea-line,
    Wider lee-way, longer run,
    Whose discoverers return not
    With the ships of gray St. John.

Bliss Carman was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He traveled to Saint John many times, so he knew the city and its harbour well.

Poetry Atlas has many other poems about Canada.


Main Location:

Saint John, NB, Canada

Other locations:

Ships in Saint John harbour, 1898

The Canadian poet, Bliss Carman