POETRY: Sea Dragons by Gavin Bantock

Sea Dragons by Gavin Bantock

Sea dragons black fathoms down have more
than any godhead master-planned the entire
pattern of my mind. Through long ages before
I was born, they have sounded their refrain;
and no man who has ever heard the roar
of surf, or has seen breakers expire,
can forget what he heard then or what he saw.

My ancestors heard the sea’s tumultuous choir,
and their stricken minds could not remain
unmoved: thus now I also hunger after higher
reaches of wisdom in the sea. The rolling drum
of breakers is the burden I most admire,
for, while calling those who die to sea again,
it comforts those whose minds are still on fire.

For twenty years I have scourged my brain
to coin a stream of diamond words to plumb
the depths of the sea; but none of mine contain
the fundamental energies that overturn
breakers or whip the white dragons that stain
the blue lips of the sea’s delirium
when the wind, clouds and the moon are all insane.

Having failed therefore, I have come
to understand that no man can learn
the seven tongues of the sea unless he is dumb.
My songs are fragmentations—dried
drops of spray that taste like the scum
at the edge of the ebb-tide, and since they earn
no acclaim, my once-inspired mind is numb.

I seek now to belong to sea-dragon clans; I yearn
to be one with the ocean; I have sighed
with the plainsong surf, impatient to discern
meaning in the sounds; I crave to be free

from this half-hearted life on land where I burn
with my life-long longing to stride
in the wake of a ship, with seagulls crying astern.

Looking for clues in the fascinating tide,
I sometimes find the salt-bleached branch of a tree,
and then I rage with envy that it died
and tossed its emerald into the green jaw
of a sea dragon. If only I now could slide
down in the tumbling waters and share the glee
of spray and breakers in their endless suicide!

But such joy will never come to me:
I’ll not see the ferns on the ocean floor:
I have to cling to the scree
walls of inland castles. My one desire
is this: that when I die I may be
sent out in a burning ship from the shore,
like a Viking lord, to the crying dragons of the sea.

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