Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Sail On, O Ship of State!


Keep Sailing!

Fourth of July, 2010

The term Ship of State has been used as a metaphor for the governing body of a country since Plato wrote The Republic, in 380 B.C.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote a lengthy–and very metaphorical!–poem, Building the Ship, about the union of states that formed the United States.

The most well-known lines of that poem are the last few stanzas, which are particularly appropriate this 4th of July. There is no hysteria about how bad things are or might be in the future and there is no mean-spirited nastiness about the storms that shake the ship. There is only resoluteness, confidence and positive will. Even if you don’t usually read poetry, give this a try.  

Building the Ship

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid the keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
‘Tis of the wave and not the rock;
‘Tis but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,
Are all with thee, – are all with thee!


Have a very fun–but thoughtful, hopeful and memory-making–July 4th, 2010!

July 2nd, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work | 3 comments


  1. Tina – you continue to impress with your ability to choose the right words at the right time.

    Comment by JM | July 2, 2010

  2. Tina says: Thank you, John! This part of Longfellow’s poem was recited to President Lincoln when the Union was at the beginning of its crisis time. He had tears on his face by the last line.

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I love your site and refer people to it often!

    Comment by TLR | July 2, 2010

  3. That’s a beautiful poem!

    Comment by C.O. | July 3, 2010

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