Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE OLD WARSHIP ABLAZE, by JAMES ELROY FLECKER



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THE OLD WARSHIP ABLAZE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Founder, old battleship; thy fight is done
Last Line: Dips out ironical that ship new moon.
Subject(s): Navy - Great Britain; Ships & Shipping; English Navy


Founder, old battleship; thy fight is done!
Yonder ablaze like thee now sinks the sun,
Shooting the last grand broadside of his beams
Over thy blackened plates and writhing seams.
Against hard odds thy crew played all their part,
Driving thee deathwards that the foe should smart
Till the guns brake and fire leapt up insane,
And they abandoned thee, to fight again,
Who on thy deck, where flicker the gaunt flames,
Have left so many dead -- won such proud names.

Dark flow the waiting waves: one can still see
Thy giant murderer edge sullenly
Eastward among the swelling towers of night.
Canst thou, dying, forget in Hell's despite
Thy freight of fire and blood, the roar and rage
Of waves and guns? Thou liest age on age
Tranced like the Princess in her sleepy Thorn,
In that curv'd bay where once the film of morn
Brake azure to thy bugles, skilled to bring
The Afric breeze, who, prompt on honied wing
Silvered the waves and then the olive trees,
And shook like sceptres those stiff companies
The columned palms, -- nor till the air was full
Of flash and whisper came the noon-tide lull.
Or that far country's ten-year-buried eves
Or moonlight scattered like a shower of leaves
Dost thou recall? -- Or how on this same deck,
Whose flaming planks blood-boultered tilt to wreck,
The dance went round to music, and how shone
For English grey, black eyes of Lebanon?

But Eastward and still east the World is thrown
Like a mad hunter seeking dawns unknown
Who plunges deep in sparkless woods of gloom.
Lebanon long hath turned into night's womb
And through her stelled casements pass new dreams:
Thee too from those last no-more-rival beams
Earth rolleth back. Alone O ship, O flower,
O flame, thou sailest for a moth-weak hour!

They come at last, the bird-soft pattering feet!
Flame high, old ship; the Fair throng up to greet
Thy splendid doom. See the long spirits, curled
Beside their dead, stand upright free of the world!
And seize the bright shapes loosed from blood-warm sleep,
They, the true ghosts, whose eyes are fixed and deep!

O ship, O fire, O fancy! A swift roar
Has rent the brow of night. Thou nevermore
Shalt glide to channel port of Syrian town;
Light ghosts have danced thee like a plummet down,
And, swift as Fate through skies with storm bestrewn,
Dips out ironical that ship New Moon.





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