Bold Boy

francisdrake17

Sir Francis Drake was a Bold Sailor

There is a wealth of history in how we use the word “Bold” in Ireland. It is a word that draws a line between the oppressor and the oppressed.

As a child I remember my English cousins being confused when they heard my Mother admonishing myself and my brother for being “bold boys” when we were clearly being naughty. In England it was a positive thing to be “Bold”. Sir Francis Drake was a “bold” sailor. Sometimes Pirate who became the Queens Admiral. He demonstrated that a Good Englishman could get away with walking on the wrong side of strict legality. For English boys boldness embodied all the qualities desired in a strapping young lad who was being raised to rule the British Empire. Bold boys were brave on the rugby field. Bold boys were confident, outgoing and made good leaders of men.

Boldness was not a quality the English wanted exhibited in their Irish, Scottish or Welsh subjects. A bold Irishman was a rebel. He was dangerous and a threat. Irish were expected to be obsequious and subservient. They were expected to take orders, not give them.

Irish mothers raised their sons in a manner to keep them safe. Being bold would not make you safe. Being bold would get you in trouble. So in Ireland being a bold boy was a bad thing.

The bold buccaneer: by John Le Gay Brereton

One very rough day on the Pride of the Fray
in the scuppers a poor little cabin-boy lay,
when the Bosun drew nigh with wrath in his eye
and gave him a kick to remember him by,
as he cried with a sneer: “What good are you here?
Go home to your mammy, my bold buccaneer.”

Now the Captain beheld, and his pity upwelled:
with a plug in the peeper the Bosun he felled.
With humility grand he extended his hand
and helped the poor lad, who was weeping, to stand,
as he cried: “Have no fear; I’m the manager here.
Take heart, and you’ll yet be a bold buccaneer.”

But how he did flare when the lad then and there
doffed his cap and shook down a gold banner of hair.
Though his movements were shy, he’d a laugh in his eye,
and he sank on the Captain’s broad breast with a sigh,
as he cried: “Is it queer that I’ve followed you here?
I’m your sweetheart from Bristol, my bold buccaneer.”

On an isle in the west, by the breezes caressed,
the bold buccaneer has a warm little nest,
and he sits there in state amid pieces of eight
and tackles his rum with a manner elate,
as he cries: “O my dear little cabin-boy, here
is a toast to the babe of the bold buccaneer!”

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Centenary of R.M.S. Leinster Disaster

lenister_featuredImage

RMS Leinster was the greatest maritime disaster in Ireland. Sunk one month before the end of WW1 just outside of Dublin Bay.

One passenger was Francis Edward Higgerty. On his way from Canada to take up a commission in the British Army, he took the opportunity to visit the land of his ancestors. The visit cost him his life. Frank was a poet and wrote the following verse on October 8th 1918, two days before the Leinster was torpedoed. The poem was found on his body.

From Canada my homeland, to Ireland my Sireland,
from Ottawa to Dublin, some three thousand miles away.
The call of one’s relations, above the din and war of countries
conserves the one green spot in memory for ever and a day.
And when back o’er the sea I wander to the land that there lies yonder
I’ll bring tidings from dear old Ireland to the land I adore,
to Canada my homeland, from Erin my own Sireland,
stretch fond memories and emotions for ever and evermore.

Three 17 year olds Anthony Baker, Anthony Jones and Ralph Murray, students of the Irish School of Telegraphy in Cork were also lost on the Leinster. The body of Anthony Jones was recovered and buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Cork. The bodies of Anthony Baker and Ralph Murray were never recovered.

Les Morts; by Albert Murray (Father of Ralph)

They sleep in quiet waters where Kish towers,
‘mid sand and slender sea-grass soft and deep,
through all the sunlit and the moonlit hours
they sleep.

They are content, they murmur not, nor weep:
no rushing flotsam hastes to mock their powers;
they are content, and very deep
their sleep.

No tombs enclose them, and they need no flowers,
no mothers’ kisses make their fond hearts leap —
‘mid slender sea-grass, bending where Kish towers
they sleep.

Miura Anjin

Fluyt

A 16th Century Dutch Fluyt

Born on this day in 1564 William Adams was the first Englishman to reach Japan, and one of the few westerners to become a Samurai.   Immortalised by James Clavell in the novel (and TV series) Shogun.

When his father died he was aged only 12 and was apprenticed to a shipyard, where he learned the skills that later allowed him to build Western Style ships for the Shogun of Japan.

He served in the Royal Navy in the war against Spain, as Master of a supply ship during the fight against the Armada.  In 1598 he joined a flotilla of five Dutch merchant ships on a trading exploration voyage to Japan.  They predated the foundation of the Dutch East India Company.

Adams was hired as “Pilot Major” of the fleet, a navigator.

They were hunted and harried by both Spanish and Portuguese in their voyage, who wanted to protect their monopolies in Africa, South America and the Pacific Islands.

One ship of the five made it to Japan, carrying only 23 men who were sick or dying.  Of these only 9 recovered their health.

Portuguese Jesuits, already in Japan tried to have the Dutch and English Protestant sailors killed as pirates.  The Japanese had other plans for them.  They invited the Dutch to open a trading post at Nagasaki in competition with the Portuguese.

Adams built a fleet of Western Ships for the Shogun which allowed the Japanese to expand their trade in Asia.  While Adams was honoured with Samurai status and given a large farm complete with the retainers to maintain it, he was never permitted to return home.

He married a Japanese girl and had a second family, his original wife and children being in England.  As a Samurai he was “reborn” and given the name Miura Anjin.

To poets: Learn to sail!

Good poet, bad sailor Percy Bysshe Shelley was born August 4th in 1792 and died a month short of his 30th birthday leaving a stunning legacy of poetry.  How much richer would the world have been had he practiced decent seamanship?

The Gulf of La Spezia is known locally as the Golfo dei poeti in commemoration of the disaster.

Rusticated is an obscure word used almost exclusively in Oxford and Cambridge universities.  It means to be expelled, or “sent down” from the college.  There is no higher accolade for a great artist, to break free of the bounds of established academia and be expelled for radicalism.  In Shelley’s case it was for publication of a pamphlet on Atheism.  If you look up a definition of the word “Rusticate” it almost invariably comes with an example which references the expulsion of Shelley.  In a sense he is responsible for the preservation of that meaning of the word.

From The Arabic, An Imitation :by Percy Bysshe Shelley

M.pngy faint spirit was sitting in the light
of thy looks, my love;
It panted for thee like the hind at noon
for the brooks, my love.
Thy barb, whose hoofs outspeed the tempest’s flight,
bore thee far from me;
my heart, for my weak feet were weary soon,
did companion thee.

Ah! fleeter far than fleetest storm or steed,
or the death they bear,
the heart which tender thought clothes like a dove
with the wings of care;
in the battle, in the darkness, in the need,
shall mine cling to thee,
nor claim one smile for all the comfort, love,
it may bring to thee.

 

Susurrus

Seashell

It’s hard to find the right word to describe the shushing plashing sound of breakers rolling on a beach, the sound of the ocean that we seek in a shell.  Susurrus is commonly used, but is defined in the dictionary as a murmuring sound.  It is onomatopoeic I suppose, and that helps.

Onomatopoeia is a difficult word to spell, so easy to make a mistake with it in a literature exam.  It is when we make words that sound of the thing.  Most societies have a word for a snake that begins with the ssssss sound made by a snake slithering over dry ground.  It probably began life as a warning, because snakes are dangerous to man.  Serpent(e) in romance languages, Slang in germanic languages.

Cuckoo is another good example of onomatopoeia. A bird named for its call.

The poet and short story writer Stephen Vincent Benét, born 120 years ago on this day, found no such word to describe the ocean sound, or he probably would have used it.

A Minor Poet: by Stephen Vincent Benét

I am a shell. From me you shall not hear
the splendid tramplings of insistent drums,
the orbed gold of the viol’s voice that comes,
heavy with radiance, languorous and clear.
Yet, if you hold me close against the ear,
a dim, far whisper rises clamorously,
the thunderous beat and passion of the sea,
the slow surge of the tides that drown the mere.

Others with subtle hands may pluck the strings,
making even Love in music audible,
and earth one glory. I am but a shell
that moves, not of itself, and moving sings;
leaving a fragrance, faint as wine new-shed,
a tremulous murmur from great days long dead.

Happy Birthday Hart Crane

Melvilles tomb

A libation of Baleine salt at Melville’s Tomb.

Born this day in the final year of the 19th Century Harold Hart Crane did not reach the age of Christ and departed this world aged only 32.  Never an easy poet and he never had an easy life.  He struggled with twin demons of drink and sexuality.  His search for an uplifting counterpoint to T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” resulted in poor critical reviews and a slide into depression.

On a steamship from Mexico to New York he made advances to a male member of the crew and was badly beaten.  He leaped into the Gulf of Mexico and his body was never recovered.  At Melville’s tomb did he foresee his own end?

 

At Melville’s Tomb; by Harold Hart Crane

Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
the dice of drowned men’s bones he saw bequeath
an embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.

And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
the calyx of death’s bounty giving back
a scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
the portent wound in corridors of shells.

Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
and silent answers crept across the stars.

Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
to farther tides . . . High in the azure steeps
monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.

Yer matey’s a bottle of fun.

Matey

The impact of advertising is that I can’t read this poem.

I can only sing it in my head.  Har har me matey.

A Life on the Ocean Wave; by Epes Sargent

A life on the ocean wave,
A home on the rolling deep,
Where the scattered waters rave,
And the winds their revels keep!
Like an eagle caged, I pine
On this dull, unchanging shore:
Oh! give me the flashing brine,
The spray and the tempest’s roar!

Once more on the deck I stand
Of my own swift-gliding craft:
Set sail! farewell to the land!
The gale follows fair abaft.
We shoot through the sparkling foam
Like an ocean-bird set free; —
Like the ocean-bird, our home
We’ll find far out on the sea.

The land is no longer in view,
The clouds have begun to frown;
But with a stout vessel and crew,
We’ll say, Let the storm come down!
And the song of our hearts shall be,
While the winds and the waters rave,
A home on the rolling sea!
A life on the ocean wave!