Verse > Anthologies > William Wilfred Campbell, ed. > The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse
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William Wilfred Campbell, comp.  The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse.  1913.
 
The Gravedigger
By Bliss Carman (1861–1929)
 
OH, the shambling sea is a sexton old,
  And well his work is done.
With an equal grave for lord and knave,
  He buries them every one.
 
  Then hoy and rip, with a rolling hip,        5
    He makes for the nearest shore;
  And God, who sent him a thousand ship,
    Will send him a thousand more;
  But some he’ll save for a bleaching grave,
    And shoulder them in to shore,—        10
  Shoulder them in, shoulder them in,
    Shoulder them in to shore.
 
Oh, the ships of Greece and the ships of Tyre
  Went out, and where are they?
In the port they made, they are delayed        15
  With the ships of yesterday.
 
He followed the ships of England far,
  As the ships of long ago;
And the ships of France they led him a dance,
  But he laid them all arow.        20
 
Oh, a loafing idle lubber to him
  Is the sexton of the town;
For sure and swift, with a guiding lift,
  He shovels the dead men down.
 
But though he delves so fierce and grim,        25
  His honest graves are wide,
As well they know who sleep below
  The dredge of the deepest tide.
 
Oh, he works with a rollicking stave at lip,
  And loud is the chorus skirled;        30
With the burly rote of his rumbling throat
  He batters it down the world.
 
He learned it once in his father’s house,
  Where the ballads of eld were sung;
And merry enough is the burden rough,        35
  But no man knows the tongue.
 
Oh, fair, they say, was his bride to see,
  And wilful she must have been,
That she could bide at his gruesome side
  When the first red dawn came in.        40
 
And sweet, they say, is her kiss to those
  She greets to his border home;
And softer than sleep her hand’s first sweep
  That beckons, and they come.
 
Oh, crooked is he, but strong enough        45
  To handle the tallest mast;
From the royal barque to the slaver dark,
  He buries them all at last.
 
  Then hoy and rip, with a rolling hip,
    He makes for the nearest shore;        50
  And God, who sent him a thousand ship,
    Will send him a thousand more;
  But some he’ll save for a bleaching grave,
    And shoulder them in to shore,—
  Shoulder them in, shoulder them in,        55
    Shoulder them in to shore.
 
 
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