A Jonah

(Production still courtesy of the wonderful fansite, The Dear Surprise, which I highly recommend.)

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is one of the most beautiful, captivating epic adventure movies ever made, with gorgeous cinematography and production design, an unforgettable score, and one of the most charismatic leading man duos ever to grace the silver screen.

But at the heart of the action is the story of a small ship’s crew living in close quarters at sea, trying to do a tough job while living with each other cheek-on-jowl. When the inevitable scapegoating behaviors that arise in such claustrophobic quarters take hold of the crew, even the captain is drawn into the hysteria – Jack Aubrey becomes a passive spectator on the ritual purging of the crew’s projected unconscious in the story of the Jonah.

This poem, inspired by the 56th Psalm, is in that Jonah’s voice, in a moment of desperate resignation – unwilling to flout the crew’s superstitions, even though they may cost him his own life.

Grant me grace, dear God,
when this man tramples my rights,
for all day long he presses me.
The ship’s crew mocks me day and night,
salutes like daggers flout my rank.
When in danger, I trust in God,
the Almighty – His word I praise,
and in His hands, I have no fear.
What can hardship cost my soul?
My men conspire, distort my words,
and turn all hearts against mine.
Their hatred never gives me rest,
but dogs my shadow hungrily,
and I sense they want my life.
Free me from these brutal schemers.
Bring down what wrath You may.
My shame-faced days You’ve numbered –
take my tears as well.
Count them towards the salt sea’s.
Then my detractors will cease
with a hush, the day their wind calls.
That God will claim me, I know.
In the God who called Jonah
and summoned the whale, in the Lord
I place my trust and shall not fear.
What can this ship’s crew do to me then?
I take upon myself their prayers in this.
And add to these my thanks to You.
For You preserved me on the mast,
and kept my grip from slipping,
to walk in enigmatic grace,
and feel the light a few days more.

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