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The Wet Litany

[words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy]

Rudyard Kipling wrote The Wet Litany in 1904. Peter Bellamy sang it in 1989 on his album Rudyard Kipling Made Exceedingly Good Songs. He commented in the sleeve notes:

One of a number of outstanding pieces resulting from Kipling's observations during a trip with the Channel Squadron in 1898.

Lyrics

When the waters' countenance
Blurs 'twixt glance and second glance;
When our tattered smokes forerun
Ashen 'neath a silvered sun;
When the curtain of the haze
Shuts upon our helpless ways—
    Hear the Channel Fleet at sea:
    Libera nos Domine!

When the engines' bated pulse
Scarcely thrills the nosing hulls;
When the wash along the side
Sounds, a-sudden, magnified;
When the intolerable blast
Marks each blindfold minute passed;
    Hear the Channel Fleet at sea:
    Libera nos Domine!

When the fog-buoy's squattering flight
Guides us 'through the haggard night;
When the warning bugle blows;
When the lettered doorway's close;
When our brittle townships press,
Impotent, on emptiness;
    Hear the Channel Fleet at sea:
    Libera nos Domine!

When the unseen leadsmen lean
Questioning a deep unseen;
When their lessened count they tell
To a bridge invisible;
When the hid and perilous
Cliffs return our cry to us;
    Hear the Channel Fleet at sea:
    Libera nos Domine!

When the treble thickness spread
Swallows up our next-ahead;
When her sirens frightened whine
Shows her sheering out of line;
When—her passage undiscerned—
We must turn where she has turned,
    Hear the Channel Fleet at sea:
    Libera nos Domine!