The Authors of the Navy


I left a thousand fragments on the lawn
I loaned my camera to the Prince of Sleep
And looking back on London, donned my robe
And breathlessly withdrew

When I had gone
No one came into the room for quite some time
Until at last a man of quiet pose
Whose footsteps made a mockery of time
Distended lips, and rosy, secret face
And sat upon the bench that I had left

"Our first attention must be to the mind
At whose front door the deluge may be traced.
Where is the man who did not mind the dark?"

He said, and polished slightly with his heel
The lifted upright in the naked stone
Until a trumpet blew into the roof
And from the plaster cobwebs fell a friend,

"Why did you paint a portrait of my love
If you have nothing to portray to her?
Why did you fine the denizens and beasts
When you have nothing to replace them with?"

A savage question answered with a frown
A normal tendency of vacant youth,
Which knows, till now, preponderance of toil
And will not be confined beneath the stairs.

"My friends, this portent frightens me" he said
"I do not see how I could understand
A secret visitation of the Lord
And yet, if we are to bend the use of sleep
Perhaps some other surplus may emerge
And we still meet the Authors of the Navy".


"Where is the boy you drowned that night at sea
Where normal lights of intermittent scope
Were unreplenished, and the sands were dry
Within the armourer's visage? Where is he
Whom you removed unthinking from the throne
Whom you disturbed and threw into the deep
When thistles grew and smothered your repose?"

The Authors of the Navy caused a smile
To pass across my rubbish-littered face
I turned and searched my brain for more; none came
But in the still and secret breath of heart
My unremembered relatives occurred
To bring me back to new activity
And I put on more fire and stoked the fuel.

"I dine at 15.30 as a rule"
The Admiral is then supposed to have said
But brains unhinged collapse and soon are dead
The telescope he held was brushed apart
A tantrum tore the deck from underfoot
And storm poured in the bowels of the hold.

The Authors of the Navy in their park
Will plant new willows and repair the old
The storm that blew that night will blow no more
And gardens freshly flourishing will adorn
The thin mosaic portrait on the lawn.


That night
In the rigging, something was displayed
A ghostlike portent, like a cross of fog
(Under the awning died the Admiral's dog)

They all are dying. Let me out! This ends.


Bridget the armourer's daughter sat at tea
The tools of father's trade spread out before her
Her own responses were not much amiss
And she would sometimes pendulously kiss
The purser on the bridge or by the poop
But father's still monotonous advice
Was not forgotten in her scarlet brain
And nothing penetrated her desire at once.


“This the last occasion I shall have
To emphasise his merits and his charms
The Admiral is dead. His solemn arms
Will not encircle Bridget's waist again
And in his coffin she will never sleep
Another night of bliss. But in the cabin
And under stairs, within the hold of holds
Another potent naval gentleman
Awaits and preens his whiskers like a lord
And no one will suspect the change of cast."

At last
The Admiral is dead. And we can die.

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