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George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953). A Treasury of War Poetry. 1917.

Henry van Dyke

Mare Liberum

YOU dare to say with perjured lips,

“We fight to make the ocean free”?

You, whose black trail of butchered ships

Bestrews the bed of every sea

Where German submarines have wrought

Their horrors! Have you never thought,—

What you call freedom, men call piracy!

Unnumbered ghosts that haunt the wave

Where you have murdered, cry you down;

And seamen whom you would not save,

Weave now in weed-grown depths a crown

Of shame for your imperious head,—

A dark memorial of the dead,—

Women and children whom you left to drown

Nay, not till thieves are set to guard

The gold, and corsairs called to keep

O’er peaceful commerce watch and ward,

And wolves to herd the helpless sheep,

Shall men and women look to thee—

Thou ruthless Old Man of the Sea—

To safeguard law and freedom on the deep!

In nobler breeds we put our trust:

The nations in whose sacred lore

The “Ought” stands out above the “Must,”

And Honor rules in peace and war.

With these we hold in soul and heart,

With these we choose our lot and part,

Till Liberty is safe on sea and shore.
February 11, 1917