09

Stella Polaris: Homebound

On passage by transport from Africa to Britain after a year and eight months’ absence in the West and South Atlantic: June 1943

Above the great ship’s lifting bow
I watch the Pole Star nightly stand,
nightly climbing clearer, higher:
ancient friend to sailors, now
lead to that remembered land
the end of all my heart’s desire.

How often from my own small ship
I caught you in my sextant glass,
in those long months when hope must lie in chrysalis,
and I watched you slip
downward, and out of vision pass,
and the Southern Cross went up the sky -

those timeless months when time would slide
from watch to watch, from night to day
to night; when every thought must be
the moment’s, lest, too fiercely eyed,
our tenuous hope dissolve away
and leave us with the endless sea.

And now (these dwindling leagues remaining
between me and my soul’s delight)
fear fades, I grasp the promise given
as, scarce the turbulent joy refraining,
I stand with dumb full heart tonight
to watch the Pole Star climbing heaven.