The blog will now be devoted not to boat building but to my 82-year-old Vertue, Sally II, now undergoing a well needed refit at Johnson & Loftus in Ullapool (and gliding...)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A Poem for November

by: Charles Mackay (1814-1889)

"MY strength is failing fast,"
Said the sea-king to his men;--
"I shall never sail the seas
Like a conqueror again.
But while yet a drop remains
Of the life-blood in my veins,
Raise, oh, raise me from the bed;
Put the crown upon my head;
Put my good sword in my hand;
And so lead me to the strand,
Where my ship at anchor rides
If I cannot end my life
In the bloody battle-strife,
Let me die as I have lived,
On the sea."
They have raised King Balder up,
Put his crown upon his head;
They have sheathed his limbs in mail,
And the purple o'er him spread;
And amid the greeting rude
Of a gathering multitude,
Borne him slowly to the shore--
All the energy of yore
From his dim eyes flashing forth--
Old sea-lion of the north--
As he looked upon his ship
Riding free,
And on his forehead pale
Felt the cold refreshing gale,
And heard the welcome sound
Of the sea.
They have borne him to the ship
With a slow and solemn tread;
They have placed him on the deck
With his crown upon his head,
Where he sat as on a throne;
And have left him there alone,
With his anchor ready weighed,
And the snowy sails displayed
To the favoring wind, once more
Blowing freshly from the shore;
And have bidden him farewell
Saying, "King of mighty men,
We shall meet thee yet again,
In Valhalla, with the monarchs
Of the sea."
Underneath him in the hold
They have placed the lighted brand;
And the fire burning slow
As the vessel from the land,
Like a stag-hound from the slips,
Darted forth from out the ships.
There was music in her sail
As it swelled before the gale,
And a dashing at her prow
As it cleft the waves below,
And the good ship sped along,
Scudding free;
As on many a battle morn
In her time she had been borne,
To struggle, and to conquer
On the sea.
And the king with sudden strength
Started up, and paced the deck,
With his good sword for his staff,
And his robe around his neck:
Once alone, he raised his hand
To the people on the land;
And with shout and joyous cry
Once again they made reply,
Till the loud exulting cheer
Sounded faintly on his ear;
For the gale was o'er him blowing
Fresh and free;
And ere yet an hour had passed,
He was driven before the blast,
And a storm was on his path,
On the sea.
And still upon the deck,
While the storm about him rent,
King Balder paced about
Till his failing strength was spent.
Then he stopped awhile to rest--
Crossed his hands upon his breast,
And looked upward to the sky
With a dim but dauntless eye;
And heard the tall mast creak,
And the fitful tempest speak
Shrill and fierce, to the billows
Rushing free;
And within himself he said:
"I am coming, O ye dead!
To join you in Valhalla,
O'er the sea.
"So blow, ye tempests, blow,
And my spirit shall not quail;
I have fought with many a foe;
I have weathered many a gale;
And in this hour of death,
Ere I yield my fleeting breath--
Ere the fire now burning slow
Shall come rushing from below,
And this worn and wasted frame
Be devoted to the flame--
I will raise my voice in triumph,
Singing free;--
To the great All-Father's home
I am driving through the foam,
I am sailing to Valhalla,
O'er the sea.
"So blow, ye stormy winds--
And ye flames ascend on high;--
In the easy, idle bed
Let the slave and coward die!
But give me the driving keel,
Clang of shields and flashing steel;--
Or my foot on foreign ground,
With my enemies around!
Happy, happy, thus I'd yield,
On the deck, or in the field,
My last breath, shouting 'On
To victory.'
But since this has been denied,
They shall say that I have died
Without flinching, like a monarch
Of the sea."
And Balder spoke no more,
And no sound escaped his lip;--
And he looked, yet scarcely saw
The destruction of his ship,
Nor the fleet sparks mounting high,
Nor the glare upon the sky;--
Scarcely felt the scorching heat
That was gathering at his feet,
Nor the fierce flames mounting o'er him
But the life was in him yet,
And the courage to forget
All his pain, in his triumph
On the sea.
Once alone a cry arose,
Half of anguish, half of pride,
As he sprang upon his feet,
With the flames on every side.
"I am coming!" said the king,
"Where the swords and bucklers ring--
Where the warrior lives again
With the souls of mighty men--
Where the weary find repose,
And the red wine ever flows;--
I am coming, great All-Father,
Unto thee!
Unto Odin, unto Thor,
And the strong, true hearts of yore--
I am coming to Valhalla,
O'er the sea."

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