Poems from the Coast | A Maritime Poetry Series
The latest in our series of maritime inspired poems by Daniel Wade. Captain Robert Halpin was one of Ireland’s maritime legends who captained the Great Eastern in it’s quest to connect the Old and the New World with the first transatlantic cable.
Captain Robert Halpin
I, master mariner, twice shipwrecked, need only
inhale a shoreward breeze humming stiffly
through the ratlines, to intuit old uproars:
her rudder’s sodden chant foaming at the swell,
my drowned orders, a gaudy fresco
of signal flags, the bilges’ endless haemorrhage.
It is true, it is true: I have loved the naked seaway
without being martyred by its gall.
My spyglass, brass-patented, was inherited
from an uncle or a grand-relative to soak up horizon
and hemisphere, alert for shoals, cliffs
purified in the worth of salt. By my captaincy,
each copper, tangled mile of cable was hooked
to the seafloor’s mud, in order that tidings
be passed on with the expedience of speech
from Kerry to Newfoundland, parallel to the equator,
girdling the globe’s watery circumference.
And when the line first broke and sank to perfidious
depths, I ordered the ship turned around, her paddle
wheels to churn in soaked volume, in order
that our soul-sapping task be complete. Years now
since Mr. Brunel collapsed on her well-walked deck, his last
last cigar’s flavour still spicing his teeth. She’d be
his towering epitaph, her iron darkness heavy as ruin
and condemned from the start. But her years of soot-raked
flame boiled ultimately down to a bulky signboard
for department store wares, rust crisping her slanted
tonnage, her obsidian hull. So let a song of iron and steam
be my grace, just as it was hers, for I sit aloft now
on Tinakilly’s porch with my pipe and tea, the picture
of a country gentleman, content and retired at forty.
A green corner of the world to call home, away
from oceanic unrest: curious ending for one so trained
in the rush of weather. My tools of voyaging, sextant
and pantograph, are of little use now, save as artifacts
in some dry museum. I am lonely as the first man.
I know to watch the Irish Sea from a leisurely skylight, dull
and downwind, high and dry amidst a glare of cloud,
is to brake, slacken off. The first stirrings of night begin
faraway, and come to enclose me eventually. To what arid pit
have I sunk? And do kings, caliphs and czars yield
their limbs, their frosted bones, in the same hushed way?
About Daniel Wade
Daniel Wade is a poet and playwright from Dublin, Ireland. He is a graduate of Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology where he studied English and Journalism.
Check out his website danielwadeauthor.com for more