Ships That Pass In The Night

Earlier today, a colleague who I haden’t seen for a couple of days sat next to me.
“Did you enjoy your leave?” I asked.
“I was working at home earlier in the week, then I was sitting at the other side of the office yesterday. We are like ships that pass in the night”, she replied laughing.

The phrase “ships that pass in the night” has always had a slight ring of melancholy beauty about it for me, and my colleague’s humorous remark caused me to go in search of poems on that theme. Below are 2 such poems, both of which are in the public domain:

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;
I look far out into the pregnant night,
Where I can hear a solemn booming gun
And catch the gleaming of a random light,
That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.

My tearful eyes my soul’s deep hurt are glassing;
For I would hail and check that ship of ships.
I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,
My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,
And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing.

O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,
O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!
Is there no hope for me? Is there no way
That I may sight and check that speeding bark
Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing
(Paul Lawrence Dunbar)

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4 thoughts on “Ships That Pass In The Night

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