Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Castaway

I found myself momentarily enamored with the sea shanty after watching the movie  Moby Dick  for the umpteenth time, and decided to work the idea into a poem:

I have crossed through the maelstroms
of an uncharted sea,
to be cast, derelict, on these shores;
In the swales I was baptized 
and told Faith was my key,
while her Priests changed the locks on her doors.

I was spit out like Jonah
at the footsteps of Hell,
as a bile-covered thief I emerged;
And through Dante’s Inferno,
(Daniel prophesied well)
at the sound of the trump I was purged.

“Avast!”, harped the Preacher,
to the psaltery’s tune,
“Ye have shipwrecked upon Holy Land.
For a prayer, and a tithe
of ten Spanish doubloons,
I will bless thee with laying of hands.”


Yo, ho! Jehovah, to Thee,
Cast away all that ye love.
Yo, ho! Cross over the sea,
Castaways all, from above!

Then said I to the Preacher,
“For a tenth of my yield,
on the Isles of the Blest I should dwell;
In the splendor of Hades,
upon Elysian Fields,
I’d be snatched from this heaven-sent hell.

“Per-seph-o-ne my maiden,
Achilles ‘neath my heel;
For what cause would I have to lament?
And which god would they summon
when the Bells of Hell pealed,
to announce this most blessed event?

“In the Land of Oblivion
I would be as a god,
sailing over the Underworld seas;
All the rich would be beggars
in the poor Land of Nod,
and the Priests would all do as I please.”


Woe, woe, Jehovah, to Thee,
Cast away all you believed.
Land ho! Cross over the sea,
Castaways all, ye deceived!

“Set a feast!”, called the Preacher,
“Pour a measure of wine,
kill the fattest of calves for our guest.
Summon Faith to our table,
make her his concubine;
Put our wayfaring friend to the test.”

Now the Priests took their places
in the choicest of seats,
and they drank themselves drunk with disdain;
then they supped with abandon
on the finest of meats,
til what fell from their forks but remained.

I took Faith to my bosom
on the banquet hall floor,
Seven harpists and flutists kept time;
Holding closely, then loosely,
changing partners galore,
in a three-quarter time pantomime.


Di-de-di Diamonds, emeralds and gold,
Cast away pearls before swine.
Li-la-li Lies and, the stories we’ve told.
Castaways all, yours and mine!

Then I stood at the table
and addressed the Triune -
The Preacher, the High Priest and dear Faith:

“You have made me a banquet,
rich and brightly festooned;
Yet am I as you found me, a wraith.
Here a feast lay before me,
though my portion was gruel,
as the Priests were all filled to content;
Now the air fills my nostrils
with the incense of fools,
and this stench you dare call Heaven’s scent.

“I have dined with your clergy,
I have danced with my Faith;
and adhered to your customs and laws.
I have found them all wanting
for a measure of grace,
toward a man set aground by his flaws.
By what measure is meet,
or what fate I have earned;
to feast or to dance, who can say?
But as tides of the sea
and these tables are turned,
Know ye this: we are all castaway."


Yo! Ho! All shipmates are we,
Cast away into the haze!
Land Ho! Cross over the sea,
Castaways, all of our days!

©2010 R.J. Gardner - All Rights Reserved

Artwork by Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714 - 1789)

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