Tuesday, 31 January 2012

 The Drowning of Ariel 


When the squall struck he danced with glee 
Believing himself kith of the old sea rover 
Sharing his nemesis; the sea 
Caught unaware by the swell Ariel heeled over 
Dipped her gunnels deep, swigged a raver's 
Draught of sweet brine, flung up her slender 
Prow, sat back on her stern, and foundered 

He lay motionless in the water, his clothes 
Ballooning about him pulling him down, down 
But Keats’ book in his coat pocket rose 
Like a dolphin, sang out in his dead friend's own 
Voice and summoned its fellows to rescue drowning 
Shelley. At the last they came. Arching in a long file 
over the waves and carried him away to Sappho's isle. 

On the beach a dead thing. Bloated, amorphous 
Hung about with bladderwrack. A sodden coat 
Rucked and wrinkled about it. Blubberous 
Sea-changed. Mute. 
They sent him skywards in a warrior's boat 
Piled iron and stout timbers about his pyre 
And on the flames flung frankincense, saltpetre and myrrh 


Seeking an entry point at this Northern shore 
I kneel in supplication and submit to your embrace 
Womb of life. I knock on the half open door 
at the unknown edge where wind tears off my face 
Where the wind sings out directions in a high voice 
Buoy me up, cleanse me in body and spirit 
My brave craft, my pilot 

Shelley was a bold seafarer, who did not fear 
The awful shadow of the unseen power 
In the dizzy ravine or on the rugged glacier 
He rang like the plucked strings of the Aoelian lyre 
As the blue flame flows over a coal on fire 
His spirit moved with the ever changing melody 
Which charges this various world with beauty 

Even now when I hear his wondrous song 
Ring out from the still cave of the witch Poesy 
My eyes water and the short hairs rise along 
The nape of my neck, as though I were tipsy 
With some intoxicant or transported to a windy 
Shore where our human souls converse 
With the awful power of the universe 

Do not mourn Shelley in the winter storm 
When a chill wind rushes down the icy reach 
Remember him in the radiant dawn 
When the sun caresses the silent beach 
And in the fields the Skylark's song, is speech 
Too potent for a human pen 
Remember Shelley and he lives again. 


As I stroke into the waves, my shoulder muscles 
Burn with a cold flame. The current pushes 
Me hard towards the river mouth. Tired corpuscles 
Force short breaths. The sea, cold and muddy, rushes 
my eyes and mouth. I sing out the snatches 
of Keats I remember and wait in vain for dolphins 
Then tumble onto the shingle, and bruise my shins 

Jeremy Solnick – January 2011 

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