Night Sentries

By George Sterling

Ever as sinks the day on sea or land,
    Called or uncalled, you take your kindred posts.
At helm and lever, wheel and switch you stand,
    On the world's wastes and melancholy coasts.
            Strength to the patient hand!
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
                    May there be Light!

Now roars the wrenching train along the dark:
    How many watchers guard the barren way,
In signal-towers, at stammering keys, to mark
    What word the whispering horizons say!
            To all that see and hark,—
To all, alert and faithful in the night,
                    May there be Light!

On ruthless streets, on by-ways sad with sin,
    (Half-hated by the blinded ones you guard)
Guard well, lest crime unheeded enter in!
    The dark is cruel and the vigil hard.
            The hours of guilt begin.
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
                    May there be Light!

Now reels the pulsing hull adown the sea:
    Gaze onward, anxious eyes, to mist or star!
Where foams the heaving highway blank and free?
    Where wait the reef, the berg, the cape, the bar?
            Whatever menace be,
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
                    May there be Light!

Now the surf-rumble rides the midnight wind,
    And grave patrols are at the ocean-edge.
Now soars the rocket where the billows grind,
    Discerned too late, on sunken shoal or ledge.
            To all that seek and find,—
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
                    May there be Light!

On lonely headlands gleam the lamps that warn,
    Star-steady, or ablink like dragon eyes.
Govern your rays, or wake the giant horn
    Within the fog that welds the sea and skies!
            Far distant runs the morn:
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
                    May there be Light!

Now glow the lesser lamps in rooms of pain,
    Where nurse and doctor watch the joyless breath,
Drawn in a sigh, and sighing lost again.
    Who waits without the threshold, Life or Death?
            Reckon you loss or gain?
    To all, alert and faithful in the night,
                    May there be Light!

Honor to you that guard our welfare now!
    To you that constant in the past have stood!
To all by whom the future shall avow
    Unconquerable fortitude and good!
            Upon the sleepless brow
    Of each, alert and faithful in the night,
                    May there be Light!

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