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The Laws of the
by Admiral R. A. Hopwood, RN
Now these are the laws of the Navy,
Unwritten and varied they be;
And he who is wise will observe them,
Going down in his ship to the sea.
As naught may outrun the destroyer,
So it is with the law and its grip,
For the strength of the ship is the
And the strength of the service the
Take heed what you say of your seniors,
Be your words spoken softly or plain,
Lest a bird of the air tell the matter,
And so shall ye hear it again.
If you labor from morn until even,
And meet with reproof for your toil,
'Tis well, that the gun may be humbled
The compressor must check the recoil.
On the strength of one link in the
Dependeth the might of the chain.
Who knows when thou may'st be tested?
So live that thou bearest the strain!
When a ship that is tired returneth,
With the signs of the sea showing plain;
Men place her in dock for a season,
And her speed she reneweth again.
So shall ye, if perchance ye grow weary,
In the uttermost parts of the sea;
Pray for leave for the good of the
As much and as oft as may be.
Count not upon certain promotion,
But rather to gain it aspire.
Though the sight line may end on the
There cometh perchance the miss-fire.
Can'st follow the track of the dolphin?
Or tell where the sea swallows roam?
Where Leviathan taketh his pastime?
What ocean he calleth his own?
So it is with the words of the rulers,
And the orders these words shall convey;
Every law is naught beside this one,
Thou shalt not criticize but obey.
Say the wise: How may I know their
Then acts without wherefore or why;
Stays the fool but one moment to question,
And the chance of his life passes by.
If ye win through an African jungle,
Unmentioned at home in the press,
Heed it not. No man seeth the piston
But it driveth the ship none the less.
Do they growl, it is well. Be thou
So the work goeth forward amain.
Lo! the gun throws the shot to a hair's
And shouteth, yet none shall complain.
Do they growl and the work be retarded?
It is ill; be whatever their rank.
The half loaded gun also shouteth
But can she pierce a target with blank?
Doth the paint work make war with funnels
And the deck to the cannons complain?
Nay, they know that some soap and fresh
Unites them as brothers again.
So ye, being heads of departments,
Do you growl with a smile on your lip
Lest ye strive and in anger be parted,
And lessen the might of your ship.
Dost deem that thy vessel needs gilding,
And the dockyard forbears to supply,
Put thy hand in thy pocket and gild
There are those who have risen thereby.
Dost think in a moment of anger
'Tis well with thy seniors to fight'?
They prosper who burn in the morning
The letters they wrote overnight.
For many are shelved and forgotten
With nothing to thank for their fate,
But that which on a half sheet of foolscap
A fool 'Had the honour to state.'
Should the fairway be crowded with
Beating homeward the harbour to win,
It is meet that lest any should suffer
The steamers pass cautiously in.
So thou when thou nearest promotion
And the peak that is gilded is nigh,
Give heed to words and thine actions
Lest others be wearied thereby.
It is ill for the winners to worry,
Take thy fate as it comes, with a smile,
And when thou art safe in the harbor
They my envy but will not revile.
Uncharted the rocks that surround thee,
Take heed that the channels thou learn,
Lest thy name serve to buoy for another
That shoal the "Court Martial Return."
Though a Harveyised belt may protect
The ship bears the scar in her side;
'Tis well if the Court should acquit
'Twere best had'st thou never been
As the sea rises clear at the hawse
Washes aft and is lost in the wake;
So shall thou drop astern all unheeded
Such time as these laws ye forsake.
Take heed in your manner of speaking
That the language ye use may be sound,
In the list of the words of your choosing
"Impossible" may not be found.
Now these are the Laws of the Navy
And many and varied are they.
but the hull and the deck and the keel
And the truck of the law is - OBEY.