When I finally bought the Patrick O’Brian novels on which Master and Commander at the Far Side of the World is based, I knew I would have to earn them before I could stand the pleasure of actually reading them. To this day I haven’t been able to finish the first volume. Simply picking it up and reading a few pages feels a lot like binging on a pint of chocolate ice cream…
This poem is about the storm that nearly sank the Surprise when they rounded Cape Horn in pursuit of the Acheron. And, since a blog about Master and Commander wouldn’t be complete without the much-loved musical duo whose friendship goes to the soul of the books and keeps our Captain Aubrey sane (and keeps him on his toes!), here’s a clip from the film as well.
Extinguishing lights on a seaboard horizon –
erasure of star-charts by club-fingered Dawn.
A paling of canvas, a drawing of sail –
blunt instrument Sun parts the twilight’s loose veil.
What night’s sky assured us of, day will not yield –
an oncoming darkness, now plainly revealed,
offers rudderless passage through mast-shearing storms:
we are wrecked, flotsam remnants, adrift and forlorn.
In this passage, what last shred of dignity lost
is a cogent reflection on justice, now tossed
to the breakers with all due proportion and grace,
a memento for tourists – ‘mark this human race’?