Verse > Anthologies > Walter Murdoch, comp. > The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse
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Walter Murdoch (1874–1970).  The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse.  1918.
 
169. The Submarine
 
By Will Lawson
 
 
THE GREY of Ocean’s denseness
  Surrounds her like a veil;
In silent deeps’ immenseness
  No laughing seas give hail;
But round her, rudely riven,        5
  The sullen waters feel
Her stout hull, engine-driven,
  A thrilling thing of steel
That cleaves a pathway under
  The breakers’ snarling lips—        10
That mocks the big guns’ thunder
  And scorns the battle-ships.
 
She goes by deeps and shallows
  ’Neath blue Australian seas,
Where never sun enhaloes        15
  A wandering ocean breeze;
Yet, at her steersman’s willing,
  She lifts her stalk-like eye
To see the sunlight spilling
  Its gold on sea and sky;        20
And, mirrored in fair colour,
  The picture true is thrown
Where, in the sea-light duller,
  Her spinning engines drone.
 
When, with her bearings taken,        25
  She plunges deep again,
She is as one forsaken,
  Beyond the world of men.
Yet living men tend truly
  Her tanks’ and air-valves’ flow,        30
And oil her engines duly,
  For it was ordered so—
Aye, tho’ beyond the borders
  Of human worlds they be,
Their orders still are orders,        35
  And what avails the sea?
 
’Neath bright electrics glowing
  They reck not that outside,
In age-long course, is flowing
  The grey-green under-tide.        40
By periscope and needle
  And pressure gauge they steer;
For who with steel can wheedle
  As does the engineer,
In whose quick brain is hidden        45
  The secrets of the stars—
Who on the storms has ridden,
  And hurled the thunder-cars?
 
He hears the steady murmur
  Of engines in the gloom.        50
Could deck or floor be firmer
  Than his deep engine-room?
And he whose touch the rudders
  Respond to like a child,
Calm, when she turns and shudders,        55
  With silent mien and mild—
He makes new pathways under
  The breakers’ snarling lips;
He mocks the big guns’ thunder
  And scorns the battle-ships.        60
 

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