DRIFTING with the ebbing tide, drifting with the tide,
Nevermore to stem its course with energy and pride;
Nevermore in unison with songs upon the river,
With feather'd rise and measured fall in silver spray to quiver.
No more by human grasp combined, in fellowship to glide,
Helpless, floating now apart, now clashing side by side,
Speeding round the rocky points, lingering in the bays.
Thro' chilly nights of starry sheen and sweltering summer days.
Rolling in the channel deep, or playing on its edges,
Twisting round the mangrove stems, tangled with the sedges;
Pausing in the ferny nooks among the floating rushes,
Glitt'ring in the glare of noon, or blacken'd by the bushes.
Gliding thro' the mighty arch, jostled by the stake,
Sunk beneath the paddle-wheel or tumbling in its wake;
Hurrying by the cheery homes that smile upon the crags,
Mingling with their rubbish heaps, their relics and their rags.
Not the race Hope might have won for profit or for pleasure,
Not the course by fancy steer'd in luxury and leisure;
Not the dash of early dreams, yet not a bootless motion,
To drift at last across the bar and plunge into the ocean!
“Broken Oars” are all around us, shatter'd in the strife,
By some heedless stroke disabled for the purposes of life;
Mortal skill no more can raise them, human hands no more combine,
Yet a mission may await them in the Sea of Love Divine.
A broken oar has saved a child, and broken hearts may be
Ordained for service in the waves of vast Eternity:
And sever'd aims may yet combine, and shatter'd hopes may find
Their purpose in the Mighty Scheme for the rescue of mankind.