There is a tide in our affairs,
The flood that leads to greater things,
A river rolling to the sea.
We live and love with little thought
For reefs and shoals, not caring that
There is a tide in our affairs.
We sail our barque and trim our sails,
A gull that soars on snow-white wings,
The flood that leads to greater things.
But habit turns to jagged rocks,
Shipwrecked our barque, poured out our love,
A river rolling to the sea.
Sue Vincent’s photo prompt got under my skin this week.
It contains my dowry. All I was ever likely to possess if only for the length of a sea voyage. It was mine until I handed it over to my future husband. Mother made sure that part of the bride price was in brocade and hair ornaments, ear rings and filigree beads. Nothing that would tempt a man, she said silently with her eyes. Perhaps I would get some joy of my father’s wealth. The rest—the coin, the plate, the jewels, Robert would keep.
I was given the only cabin, a cupboard that stank of fish oil and vomit. The captain had threatened to cut the throat of any men who touched me and I prayed his threat would be equal to the lock that wasn’t on the door.
The chest squatted next to my narrow bed. Although I wore the keys around my neck, the next to open the lid was to have been Robert. I could see his stubby fingers grappling with the locks, his dark eyes glittering when he flung open the lid. I wondered would he be satisfied with what he found. Would he treat me gently, like the child I was, because my father’s gold was yellow enough for his taste?
It is cold, but I no longer shiver. Not since the storm and the cruel grasp of the furious waves. I will never know the touch of those stubby fingers or see the avidity in those dark eyes. Perhaps this is better, to know only the darkness, the green sea currents that slip and curl like serpents through the deeps. My shade sits, with my rotting brocades, the glint of my useless pearls, on the chest, watching the curious fish dart through the wreckage of the ship, among the casks and chests and lifeless bodies, to nibble our flesh.
Painting by Friedrich Karl Ströher
How so calm the sea,
When so much death lies beneath its billows?
How so silent the sky,
That echoed surely with last anguished cries?
No waves watch death come, with cold, impassive eyes,
Nor does the sky hear and disregard the pleading.
Beneath the rising and the setting of moon and sun,
Rolling in the ebb and flow of endless tides,
Is all of life and death and the easing of pain.
Ocean swells, silk-smooth and tranquil as a shroud,
Cradling the lost in its vast, implacable tenderness,
Gathering up the misery no one wants,
And gulls bear whispers in their strong white wings,
Memories soft as swansdown,
To soar beneath other, gentler skies.
This is my variation on an old ballad. I’ve used Waterhouse’s Miranda again to illustrate it.
The wind that shakes the barley fills the sail,
And blows your little boat across the sea.
The wind that shakes the poplars curls the waves,
And swells the tide that brings you home to me.
The wind that rouses storm clouds fills the bay,
And dashes angry waves upon the strand.
I stand with rain-lashed hair across my face,
And know your boat will never make the land.
The wind that blows with sweet breath o’er the fields
Has calmed too late, your boat is split apart,
And I am left beneath the sweet blue sky,
With just the wind to sooth my weeping heart.
Painting by Nicholas Roerich
On the cliffs, the ravens gather to watch for what the tide will bring, tasting the smell of blood in the salty air and listening patiently for the screams of the dying on the shore below.