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Peter Bolton

(2nd April 1942 / Brecon)

The Two Ships - Illustrated


One ship is shown, sailing with proud sails;
Blue and white waves move gently across the screen.

“There is a ship that sails the seas.
There was a once when it left the land.
A love that drove a quest.
A now that broke a heart.
In the days before kingdoms were born, there was a girl who loved the fields where the leverets played, and a people who worshipped the god who multiplied.
They would build a temple in his name.”

The animation shows the young hares gambolling around a young girl in a verdant pasture.
The hares are white, the girl’s eyes green.

“With string and pegs they came.
A haughty man with priestly robes.
The girl said no.
God has spoken; it is his will.
You must answer his command.
Still the girl said no.”

The girl’s arms cross in emphasis.

“She was taken and dragged before the court, charged with blasphemy against the almighty lord.
‘No, ’ she said, ‘ your petty god does but seek your own ends.
Does not God stretch beyond your tiny minds?
Billions of dwarves do not make a giant.’
‘Oh horror! What do we hear?
Do not rabbits also multiply? ’
‘Yes, ’ she replied, ‘but it is allowed that the fox may take his share.’
For this she was condemned to the torch; the ropes were tied; the pyre was built.
Only incineration could save their god from ruin and rust.”

The moon rises to light the forlorn face of the captive.
Curved white forms come creeping across the screen, nibbling at the girl’s bonds.

“Out of the darkness came light, out of the teeth of her friends came freedom.
Whereupon she set herself on a plank upon the ocean where the flames could not reach her.
Seeing that she had gone where they feared to tread,
They heaped their curses upon her head.
They named her Nereid, vowed that on land she never again would walk nor stand.
It is said that in like manner Nereid did return this curse and forbid the conquering of the seas.
‘When all the earth is filled to its last quarter, each portion by man’s hand defiled.
Then man will covet the oceans and he shall not want them.
I shall cast myself into their depths, and in my drowning they will rise and flood the whole world.
Then you will know God.’
So it was that her perpetual procession about the watery globe began.”

An impression of countless years parades before our eyes.
We must wait and see what else might be.

“In those days the years were not numbered, ” says the voice.

There is a pause.
A hut becomes a house, the house a mansion.
Then it becomes a stately home, which grows in ascending magnificence until a palace of prodigious proportions is displayed.

“Prince Querolus was sad, because throughout his youth,
Water was hardly to be seen in his country.
The precious fluid had to be gathered in as harvest,
Kept locked in underground tanks for home and industrial consumption.
The only river was the sewer, the only lake the cesspit.
The only throne was his, and his the call for fountains there, within the palace wall.
A source was sought from whence a channel deep, at great expense, could bring its sparkling treasure.
The River Ree, a river.
The Prince called up on his machine, his encyclopædic disk.
River, a flowing of natural water (rare) .
Such were the words, with no example given.
He would thus see this River Ree from whence would come his dream.
To make his haste to where this marvel lay, deep in the refuse waste.
Its limpid flow was far from human gaze.
The rubbish tips were mountains high where water flow amazed.
A rift had formed, an abyss deep into which the river fell.
Perchance a rainbow formed and in that rainbow tears.”

At this point the narrative ceases and only the sound of a harp, played pianissimo, can be heard.
Those tears relate to a fountain and hence to the never-ending story, an entrapment.
The cartoon shows the fabulous waterfall, veiled in ever changing rainbows.

“There is a ship that sails the seas.
There was a once when it left the land.
A love that drove a quest.
A now that broke a heart.”

Silence.

“The Prince had seen those teardrop stains and now to sea would go.
‘Sire, you shall have fountains like chandeliers, glistening as a million diamonds.
Do not put yourself into the hands of the pirates that patrol that last frontier.
Worse yet, will not Nereid, the evil one, gnash your bones? ’
You can go on forever and the horizon never changes.
Day follows night and night its day, and year its yesteryear.
Yet the Prince would bring her home again.
Even though it be a legend from long ago,
There would be rivers, there would be streams,
There would be forests where the deer could play.
Where had they gone?
At last, and the darkness was the darkest ever seen, and the stars did hide away!
A light was seen.”

Now the two ships are seen in black silhouette, coming in from left and right against a midnight blue background.
A light glows feebly on the left-hand vessel.

“‘Tis a pirate, ’ cried the crew and they blanked their lamps.
Under the decks they cowered.
A light was seen.
‘Tis a pirate, ’ thought the Prince. ‘Is that so? ’
We’ll move with stealth till dawn arises.
So it was that the dawn did glint the tossing waves.
Did he know? Was it so? Could he have known?
Their ships had passed in the night and Nereid must sail on into eternity.”

The dark shapes do indeed cross each other and disappear from view.
The cartoon fades and blanks out, leaving us in the middle of another programme. What is it that we must do?

Submitted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Edited: Thursday, October 03, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

This poem-cartoon appears on Alice's television without notice.

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