The Ports of the Open Sea

Henry Lawson, 1897

      Down here where the ships loom large in
             The gloom when the sea-storms veer,
      Down here on the south-west margin
             Of the western hemisphere,
      Where the might of a world-wide ocean
             Round the youngest land rolls free —
      Storm-bound from the world's commotion,
             Lie the Ports of the Open Sea.

      By the bluff where the grey sand reaches
             To the kerb of the spray-swept street,
      By the sweep of the black sand beaches
             From the main-road travellers' feet,
      By the heights like a work Titanic,
             By a bluff lined coast volcanic
             Lie the Ports of the wild South-east.

      By the steeps of the snow-capped range,
             By the scarped and terraced hills —
      Far away from the swift life-changes,
             From the wear of the strife that kills —
      Where the land in the Spring seems younger
             Than a land of the Earth might be —
      Oh! the hearts of the rovers hunger
             For the Ports of the Open Sea.

      But the captains watch and hearken
             For a sign of the South Sea wrath —
      Let the face of the South-east darken,
             And they turn to the ocean path.
      Ay, the sea-boats dare not linger,
             Whatever the cargo be;
      When the South-east lifts a finger
             By the Ports of the Open Sea.

      South by the bleak Bluff faring,
             North where the Three Kings wait,
      South-east the tempest daring —
             Flight through the storm-tossed strait;
      Yonder a white-winged roamer
             Struck where the rollers roar —
      Where the great green froth-flaked comber
             Breaks down on a black-ribbed shore.

      For the South-east lands are dread lands
             To the sailor in the shrouds,
      Where the low clouds loom like headlands,
             And the black bluffs blur like clouds.
      When the breakers rage to windward
             And the lights are masked a-lee,
      And the sunken rocks run inward
             To a Port of the Open Sea.

      But oh! for the South-east weather —
             The sweep of the three-days' gale —
      When, far through the flax and heather,
             The spindrift drives like hail.
      Glory to man's creations
             That drive where the gale grows gruff,
      When the homes of the sea-coast stations
             Flash white from the dark'ning bluff!

      When the swell of the South-east rouses
             The wrath of the Maori sprite,
      And the brown folk flee their houses
             And crouch in the flax by night,
      And wait as they long have waited —
             In fear as the brown folk be —
      The wave of destruction fated
             For the Ports of the Open Sea.

      Grey cloud to the mountain bases,
             Wild boughs that rush and sweep;
      On the rounded hills the tussocks
             Like flocks of flying sheep;
      A lonely storm-bird soaring
             O'er tussock, fern and tree;
      And the boulder beaches roaring
             The Hymn of the Open Sea.