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Old 12-30-2001, 01:21 PM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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Location: Yorkshire, UK
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Over on the "Lariat" board, I asked a question about the Canadian poet, E. J. Pratt (1882 - 1964). I copy here some of the information I posted on that thread, together with the concluding lines from his long poem of 1935, "The Titanic". In my copy of Pratt’s Collected Poems (Toronto, 1944), this runs to thirty-one pages, over a thousand lines - a serious undertaking.

Several poems ("The Titanic" among them), as well as other information, can be found at the University of Toronto site (http://www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/pratt/). In addition, Trent University, Ontario, has for some time been preparing a hypertext edition of Pratt’s works, including his letters at http://www.trentu.ca/pratt/.

Out on the water was the same display
Of fear and self-control as on the deck -
Challenge and hesitation and delay,
The quick return, the will to save, the race
Of snapping oars to put the realm of space
Between the half-filled lifeboats and the wreck.
The swimmers whom the waters did not take
With their instant death-chill struck out for the wake
Of the nearer boats, gained on them, hailed
The steersmen and were saved: the weaker failed
And fagged and sank. A man clutched at the rim
Of a gunwale, and a woman's jewelled fist
Struck at his face: two others seized his wrist,
As he released his hold, and gathering him
Over the side, they staunched the cut from the ring....


Aboard the ship, whatever hope of dawn
Gleamed from the Carpathia's riding lights was gone,
For every knot was matched by each degree
Of list. The stern was lifted bodily
When the bow had sunk three hundred feet, and set
Against the horizon stars in silhouette
Were the blade curves of the screws, hump of the rudder.
The downward pull and after buoyancy
Held her a minute poised but for a shudder
That caught her frame as with the upward stroke
Of the sea a boiler or a bulkhead broke.
Climbing the ladders, gripping shroud and stay,
Storm-rail, ringbolt or fairlead, every place
That might befriend the clutch of hand or brace
Of foot, the fourteen hundred made their way
To the heights of the aft decks, crowding the inches
Around the docking bridge and cargo winches.
And now that last salt tonic which had kept
The valour of the heart alive-the bows
Of the immortal seven that had swept
The strings to outplay, outdie their orders, ceased.
Five minutes more, the angle had increased
From eighty on to ninety when the rows
Of deck and port-hole lights went out, flashed back
A brilliant second and again went black.
Another bulkhead crashed, then following
The passage of the engines as they tore
From their foundations, taking everything
Clean through the bows from 'midships with a roar
Which drowned all cries upon the deck and shook
The watchers in the boats, the liner took
Her thousand fathoms journey to her grave.

And out there in the starlight, with no trace
Upon it of its deed but the last wave
From the Titanic fretting at its base,
Silent, composed, ringed by its icy broods,
The gray shape with the palaeolithic face
Was still the master of the longitudes.


Clive Watkins

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Old 12-31-2001, 09:46 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Rough and Tumble stuff, Clive, absolutely amazing stuff. He reminds of Richard Murphy, and this conclusion is way more powerful than The Convergence of the Twain. I look forward to reading more of him.
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