Ship of Death

Schooner

Here is a verse composed by Henry Van Dyke Jr “For Katrina’s Sundial”

Time is
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not

There is a huge bank of sundial poetry and mottoes.  Many of the epigrams are in latin.  Most are about time, how we use it, how short it is, how our lives are fleeting things.  I also like this poem from Van Dyke where he uses the ship as a metaphor for the life of a person.   Ships as symbols for death are not uncommon.  Perhaps the clearest examples we have are from Pharaonic and Viking burials.  I attach a couple of good examples at the bottom.

Van Dyke was born on November 10th, so I am belatedly wishing him a happy birthday.

 

 

Gone from my sight: by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, ‘There, she is gone’

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me – not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, ‘There, she is gone,’
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, ‘Here she comes!’

And that is dying…

Death comes in its own time, in its own way.
Death is as unique as the individual experiencing it.

 

Khufu

Model of the Khufu Solar Barge found in his tomb.

 

Viking ship, Oseberg, a 9th century burial ship, Vikingskiphuset (Viking Ship Museum), Bygdoy peninsula, Oslo, Norway, Scandinavia, Europe

The Oseberg Burial Longboat

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Happy Birthday Roger McGough

mcGough.jpg

A beat poet from Liverpool, born this day 1937.  A man who worked with the Beatles, writing dialogue for their movie Yellow Submarine.  I love the brutal northern honesty and truth of his poetry.  His approach to death is both real and funny.

 

Soil; by Roger McGough

we’ve ignored eachother for a long time
and I’m strictly an indoor man
anytime to call would be the wrong time
I’ll avoid you as long as I can

When I was a boy we were good friends
I made pies out of you when you were wet
and in childhood’s remembered summer weather
we roughandtumbled together
we were very close

just you and me and the sun
the world a place for having fun
always so much to be done

But gradually I grew away from you
Of course you were still there
during my earliest sexcapades
when I roughandfumbled
not very well after bedtime
but suddenly it was winter
and you seemed so cold and dirty
that I stayed indoors and acquired
a taste for girls and clean clothes

we found less and less to say
you were jealous so one day
I simply upped and moved away

I still called to see you on occasions
but we had little now in common
and my visits grew less frequent
until finally
une coldbright April morning
a handful of you drummed
on my fathers waxworked coffin

at last it all made sense
there was no need for pretence
you said nothing in defence

And now recently
while travelling from town to town
past where you live
I have become increasingly aware
of you watching me out there.
patient and unforgiving
toying with the trees.

we’ve avoided eachother for a long time
and I’m strictly a city man
anytime to call would be the wrong time
I’ll avoid you as long as I can

Poor Death

ingmar-bergman-film-seventh-seal-analysis-meaning

 

 

 

Death be not proud : by John Donne

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
for, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
and soonest our best men with thee do go,
rest of their bones, and souls delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
and dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
and poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
and better then thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
and death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

 

Come,let us pity not the dead:  by Drummond Allison

Come, let us pity not the dead but Death
for He can only come when we are leaving,
He cannot stay for tea or share our sherry.
He makes the old man vomit on the hearthrug
but never knew his heart before it failed him.
He shoves the shopgirl under the curt lorry
but could not watch her body undivided.
Swerving the cannon-shell to smash the airman
He had no time to hear my brother laughing.
He sees us when, a boring day bent double,
we take the breaking-point for new beginning
prepared for dreamless sleep or dreams or waking
for breakfast but now sleep past denying.
He has no life, no exercise but cutting;
While we can hope a houri, fear a phantom.
Look forward to No Thoughts. For Him no dying
nor any jolt to colour His drab action,
only the plop of heads into the basket,
only the bags of breath, the dried-up bleeding.
We, who can build and change our clothes and moulder,
come, let us pity Death but not the dead.

Happy Birthday Stevie Smith

Stevie

Sylvia Plath described herself as a “desperate Smith addict” and wrote a letter expressing an interest in meeting Stevie, but first committed suicide.  Smith herself struggled with depression all her life and was a fatalist from a young age.  Abandoned by her father as a small child she grew up in a house of independent feminists, particularly her Aunt Madge who she called “The Lion Aunt”.

At age five she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium.  She resolved herself to death at age seven.  At age eight she was discharged.  Her mother, never in the best of health, passed away when Smith was 16.

Smith was born on this day in 1902 and passed away aged 68 in 1971.

 

I do not speak; by Stevie Smith

I do not ask for mercy for understanding for peace
And in these heavy days I do not ask for release
I do not ask that suffering shall cease.

I do not pray to God to let me die
To give an ear attentive to my cry
To pause in his marching and not hurry by.

I do not ask for anything I do not speak
I do not question and I do not seek
I used to in the day when I was weak.

Now I am strong and lapped in sorrow
As in a coat of magic mail and borrow
From Time today and care not for tomorrow.

 

JFK, Dallas, 1963, Nov 22.

John F. Kennedy Jr. Saluting His Father at Funeral

I Have a Rendezvous with Death;  by Alan Seeger
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ‘twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

 

 

Another Year

death

Another year slides away.  If my life is the Samuel Beckett play, “Breath” I am on the exhale.  I intend to squeeze every drop of juice out of what is left.  If fatalism teaches you anything it teaches you to treasure the moment.  Just treasuring Dublin retaining the Sam Maguire at the moment.  Full time for Dublin, and I am (hopefully) still in the third quarter.

 

For a Birthday: by Thom Gunn

 

I have reached a time when words no longer

help:

Instead of guiding me across the moors

Strong landmarks in the uncertain out-of-doors,

Or like dependable friars on the Alp

Saving with wisdom and with brandy kegs,

They are gravel-stones, or tiny dogs which yelp

Biting my trousers, running round my legs.

Description and analysis degrade,

Limit, delay, slipped land from what has been;

And when we groan My Darling what we mean

Looked at more closely would too soon evade

The intellectual habit of our eyes;

And either the experience would fade

Or our approximations would be lies.

The snarling dogs are weight upon my haste,

Tons which I am detaching ounce by ounce.

All my agnostic irony I renounce

So I may climb to regions where I rest

In springs of speech, the dark before of truth:

The sweet moist wafer of your tongue I taste,

And find right meanings in your silent mouth.

How to live your life

Mont Blanc

Jim Hourihane, my late father in law, liked to talk about life being like a bar of chocolate.  When you are a kid and someone gives you a whole bar of chocolate to yourself you gobble down the first half without thinking.  Then you realise you only have half left.  You begin to take your time.  You start to appreciate the remaining chocolate more.  When you come to the last square you take a long time to savour it.  You let it sit on your tongue until it melts.  You eek out every last ounce of pleasure from it.

The poem below is on the same theme.  Where do you live your life today?  Are you in the mindset at the start of the poem?  Are you focused on the negatives of the daily grind?  Do you bemoan Monday mornings and wish the week away to Friday?  Do you look at the clock at 10:00 and pray for 17:30?

How better to live every day the way he lives the last 3 minutes.  Enjoy the journey, it doesn’t last long.

 

25 minutes to go: by Shel Silverstein

They’re buildin’ the gallows outside my cell.
I got 25 minutes to go.

And in 25 minutes I’ll be in Hell.
I got 24 minutes to go.

Well, they give me some beans for my last meal.
23 minutes to go.

And you know… nobody asked me how I feel.
I got 22 minutes to go.

So, I wrote to the Gov’nor… the whole damned bunch.
Ahhh… 21 minutes to go.

And I call up the Mayor, and he’s out to lunch.

I got 20 more minutes to go.

Well, the Sheriff says, ‘Boy, I wanna watch you die’.
19 minutes to go.

I laugh in his face… and I spit in his eye.
I got 18 minutes to go.

Well…I call out to the Warden to hear my plea.
17 minute to go.

He says, ‘Call me back in a week or three.
You’ve got 16 minutes to go.’

Well, my lawyer says he’s sorry he missed my case.
Mmmm….15 minutes to go.

Yeah, well if you’re so sorry, come up and take my place.
I got 14 minutes to go.

Well, now here comes the padre to save my soul
With 13 minutes to go.

And he’s talkin’ about burnin’, but I’m so damned cold.
I got 12 more minutes to go.

Now they’re testin’ the trap. It chills my spine.
I got 11 minutes to go.

‘Cuz the goddamned thing it works just fine.
I got 10 more minutes to go.

I’m waitin’ for the pardon… gonna set me free
With 9 more minutes to go.

But this ain’t the movies, so to hell with me.
I got 8 more minutes to go.

And now I’m climbin up the ladder with a scaffold peg
With 7 more minutes to go.

I’ve betta’ watch my step or else I’ll break my leg.
I got 6 more minutes to go.

Yeah… with my feet on the trap and my head in the noose…
5 more minutes to go.

Well, c’mon somethin’ and cut me loose.
I got 4 more minutes to go.

I can see the mountains. I see the sky.
3 more minutes to go.

And it’s too damned pretty for a man to die.
i got 2 more minutes to go

I can hear the buzzards… hear the crows.
1 more minute to go.

And now I’m swingin’ and here I gooooooooo….