Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
The Wet Litany
 
WHEN the water’s countenance
Blurrs ’twixt glance and second glance;
Then our tattered smokes forerun
Ashen ’neath a silvered sun;
When the curtain of the haze        5
Shuts upon our helpless ways—
    Hear the Channel Fleet at sea:
    Libera nos Domine!
 
When the engines’ bated pulse
Scarcely thrills the nosing hulls;        10
When the wash along the side
Sounds, a-sudden, magnified;
When the intolerable blast
Marks each blindfold minute passed;
 
When the fog-buoy’s squattering flight        15
Guides us through the haggard night;
When the warning bugle blows;
When the lettered doorways close;
When our brittle townships press,
Impotent, on emptiness;        20
 
When the unseen leadsmen lean
Questioning a deep unseen;
When their lessened count they tell
To a bridge invisible;
When the hid and perilous        25
Cliffs return our cry to us;
 
When the treble thickness spread
Swallows up our next-ahead;
When her siren’s frightened whine
Shows her sheering out of line;        30
When—her passage undiscerned—
We must turn where she has turned,
    Hear the Channel Fleet at sea:
    Libera nos Domine!
 
 
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