Sunday, 19 July 2009

afloat


We're thinking of boats, what with the summer holidays being close upon us. I've been getting the Mirror dinghy ready for the sea again. But Katie has experienced the joys of kayaking on her school camp, and wants to go solo. Entirely understandable, but we've still got a sailing dinghy and a large Canadian canoe on our hands. Maybe we need to get rid of a few things first.





As a change from the sort of poems I've been putting up lately, this describes a sea voyage around the Welsh coast. I've sailed up and down this bit several times; I came round Land's End and into St George's Channel in a hurricane on my first trip to sea; it was a wild night, the night the Union Star and the Penlee lifeboat were destroyed. And I've sailed down through Cardigan Bay when the sea was like a mirror, and the Bishops and Clerks (the chain of rocks and islets that extend off St David's Head) had inverted mirages sitting on their heads, like a 70s album cover by Roger Dean. And watched the tide races around Strumble and Ramsey. And so on. So I like this poem, because it counts off the headands and sounds, and I can follow the voyage in my head.



The Chaunty of the Nona Hilaire Belloc

Come list all ye Cullies and Doxies so dear,

You shall hearken to the tale of the Bold Marineer
That took ship out of Holyhead and drove her so hard
Past Bardsey, Pwlheli, Port Madoc, and Fishguard--- 
Past Bardsey, Pwlheli, Port Madoc, and Fishguard.
 

Then he dropped out of Fishguard on a calm summer's day,
Past Strumbles, St David's and across St Bride's Bay;
Circumnavigating Skomer that island around,
With the heart of a Lion he threaded Jack Sound--- 
With the heart of a Lion he threaded Jack Sound.

Then from out the Main Ocean there rolled a great cloud,

So he clawed into Milford Haven by the fog-blast so loud,
Until he dropped anchor in a deep-wooded bay,
Where all night with old Sleep and quiet Sadness he lay--- 
Where all night with old Sleep and quiet Sadness he lay.
 

Next morning was a Doldrum, and he whistled for a breeze,
Which came from the Nor' Nor' Westward all across the high seas;
In passing St Govan's lightship he gave them good-night;
But before it was morning he raised Lundy Light---
Before it was morning he had raised Lundy Light.

Then he tossed for twelve hours in that horrible place,

Which is known to the Mariner as the Great White Horse Race,
Till, with a slant about three bells, or maybe near four,
He saw white water breaking upon Loud Appledore--- 
He saw white water breaking upon Loud Appledore.

The Pirates of Appledore, the Wines of Instow;

But her nose is for Bideford with the tide at the flow.
Rattle anchor, batten hatches, and falls all lie curled;
The Long Bridge of Bideford is the end of the World---
The Long Bridge of Bideford is the end of the World.