The Ship Of State
AGES and ages ago a great ship set sail for the Port of Happiness, and on her voyage she ran aground in the darkness. But the passengers took no notice of it, and the officers, seeing that they should be blamed, made as if all were well.
The weeds and barnacles grew about the ship and it seemed that she had always stood still. As for the crew, they said, " Why should we care if only we earn our usual pay?" But the ship was straining and in danger of going to pieces. She pounded heavily upon the sand. " Those noises," said the captain, "are strikes. We have always had such troubles."
One day a Fisher came to the coast, and when he saw the ship he began to push at it; the passengers laughed at him. Others passed by, and to them he called, " Come and help me." And now and then one joined him. The officers said: "These people are disturbers of the peace. They must be driven off" And others said: "If they push the ship off, no one knows where she will go or what will become of her."
Then a passenger stood up and shouted to those who worked: "You fools, your intentions are good, but you are ahead of the times, and the wind is against you." The Fisher replied, "The tide is rising." And still he cried aloud for help.
Some of the passengers came and helped him push, and the timbers cracked.
"That," said the ship's doctor, " is the necessary strife of nature."
And some of those who were on board grew sick in the hot rays of the sun, so that their groans annoyed the officers, and they put the sick in the hold.
He who pushed cried out, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." The officers did not understand him; therefore they put him to death.
Nevertheless the commotion attracted many, and now and then one left his work and hauled or pried with a lever, or fastened a float under the ship. And some, though meaning to strengthen the ship, fastened weights on her sides. These they called reforms and charities. The Pilot said: "To try to get the ship off is Utopian. Let us make the people as comfortable as possible, so that they will be quiet."
But as the toilers strove wearily and almost discouraged, a wind from God came out of the west, and when all pushed, the great ship moved off, and behold, it had tarried almost in sight of the Kingdom.
And many of those who were pushing died in the chill water, and some were drowned and many forgotten. But their names are written in the book of remembrance of Him who cried, "The Kingdom of God is at hand."