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Almighty Ruler of the All -- Robert A Heinlein

In memory of the Columbia and her crew...
(Poem #1162) Almighty Ruler of the All
 Almighty ruler of the all
 Whose power extends to great and small,
 Who guides the stars with steadfast law,
 Whose least creation fills with awe -
 Oh grant Thy mercy and Thy grace
 To those who venture into space.
-- Robert A Heinlein
Notes:
  From the short story "Ordeal in Space", collected in "The Past Through
    Tomorrow"
  Intended as an additional verse to the Navy Hymn ("Eternal Father, Strong
    to Save")

As Heinlein fans are doubtless aware, his work includes several examples of
verse by fictional poets. "The Green Hills of Earth" [Poem #241] is
undoubtedly the best known, but today's poem runs it a close second (helped,
no doubt, by the popularity of the Navy Hymn).

I was moved to think of this (and of several other poems and songs) today,
and to reflect that, no matter how much one reads about the dangers and
perils of spaceflight, it never really strikes home until something like
this happens. It is far easier to believe in "those in peril on the sea" -
the seventeen years since Challenger have made astronauts safely invulnerable
in the public consciousness. No more.

Requiesat in Pacem.

Links:
  There is, unsurprisingly, a lot of filk appropriate to the occasion. I
  considered running some, but hesitated to separate the words from the
  music - go listen instead. I recommend "Fire in the Sky" and "Hope Eyrie"
  from the Virtual Filksing
    http://www.prometheus-music.com/eli/virtual.html

  A few minstrels links:
   Poem #276: High Flight
   Poem #609: Winged Man

 The original Navy Hymn:
   [broken link] http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/questions/eternal.html
 There are also several additional verses; astonishingly, the Heinlen one is
 not among them.

PostScript: I am also reminded of the Poul Anderson novel "We Have Fed our
Seas", which was titled after one of Kipling's poems; I was actually
planning on running that one, but unfortunately could not find the poem. If
you have a copy, please write in.

martin

54 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Frank O'Shea said...

Martin,

The Kipling poem to which you refer is The Song of the Dead. I don't have
time to type it all out, but the final 3 verses are below.

Frank O'Shea

We have fed our sea for a thousand years
And she calls us, still unfed,
Though there's never a wave of all her waves
But marks our English dead.
We have strawed our best to the weed's unrest,
To the shark and the shearing gull,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' paid in full.

There's never a flood goes shoreward now
But lifts a keel we manned;
There's never an ebb goes seaward now
But drops our dead on the sand -
But slinks our dead on the sand forlore,
From the Ducies to the Swin.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' paid it in!

We must feed our sea for a thousand years,
For that is our doom and pride,
As it was when the sailed with the Golden Hind,
Or the wreck that struck last tide -
Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
Where the ghastly blue-lights flare.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' bought it fair.

Alan Kornheiser said...

I too remember that Poul Anderson story. I don't have a copy...but I
memorized the poem years ago, so I have it yet. Alas, memory is fickle, so I
don't vouch for it all, but surely it goes like this?

We have fed our sea for a thousand years
But she calls us, still unfed,
Though there's never a wave of all her waves
But marks our English dead.
We have strewn our best to the weed's unrest
To the shark and the shearing gull.
If blood be the price of Admiralty
Lord God we hae' paid in full.

Heinlein was indeed fond of poetry. There's a science fiction poetry prize
named for one of his characters, and the final tale of the "man who sold the
moon" closes with Stevenson's epitaph. Not the worst, in this context:

Home is the sailor, home from the sea
And the hunter is home from the hill.

Hal KLegman said...

Song of the Dead is the Kipling poem from where the Paul Anderson title
comes. I highlighted the line, it is the beginning of the stanza.
Hal Klegman.

Hear now the Song of the Dead -- in the North by the torn berg-edges --
They that look still to the Pole, asleep by their hide-stripped sledges.
Song of the Dead in the South -- in the sun by their skeleton horses,
Where the warrigal whimpers and bays through the dust
of the sear river-courses.

Song of the Dead in the East -- in the heat-rotted jungle hollows,
Where the dog-ape barks in the kloof --
in the brake of the buffalo-wallows.
Song of the Dead in the West --
in the Barrens, the waste that betrayed them,
Where the wolverine tumbles their packs
from the camp and the grave-mound they made them;
Hear now the Song of the Dead!

I

We were dreamers, dreaming greatly, in the man-stifled town;
We yearned beyond the sky-line where the strange roads go down.
Came the Whisper, came the Vision, came the Power with the Need,
Till the Soul that is not man's soul was lent us to lead.
As the deer breaks -- as the steer breaks -- from the herd where they graze,
In the faith of little children we went on our ways.
Then the wood failed -- then the food failed -- then the last water dried --
In the faith of little children we lay down and died.
On the sand-drift -- on the veldt-side -- in the fern-scrub we lay,
That our sons might follow after by the bones on the way.
Follow after -- follow after! We have watered the root,
And the bud has come to blossom that ripens for fruit!
Follow after -- we are waiting, by the trails that we lost,
For the sounds of many footsteps, for the tread of a host.
Follow after -- follow after -- for the harvest is sown:
By the bones about the wayside ye shall come to your own!

When Drake went down to the Horn
And England was crowned thereby,
'Twixt seas unsailed and shores unhailed
Our Lodge -- our Lodge was born
(And England was crowned thereby!)

Which never shall close again
By day nor yet by night,
While man shall take his life to stake
At risk of shoal or main
(By day nor yet by night).

But standeth even so
As now we witness here,
While men depart, of joyful heart,
Adventure for to know
(As now bear witness here!)

II

We have fed our sea for a thousand years
And she calls us, still unfed,
Though there's never a wave of all her waves
But marks our English dead:
We have strawed our best to the weed's unrest,
To the shark and the sheering gull.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' paid in full!

There's never a flood goes shoreward now
But lifts a keel we manned;
There's never an ebb goes seaward now
But drops our dead on the sand --
But slinks our dead on the sands forlore,
From the Ducies to the Swin.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' paid it in!

We must feed our sea for a thousand years,
For that is our doom and pride,
As it was when they sailed with the ~Golden Hind~,
Or the wreck that struck last tide --
Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
Where the ghastly blue-lights flare.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' bought it fair!

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