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cutty sark

the clipper
a grand lady of the seas
weather-beaten but unbowed,
her decks scrubbed clean
by seamen all bone, sinew
and misfortune.

around the indies she went,
blithe and bonny,
to scurvy and dysentery,
empire a storm in her teacup,
the crown her anchor
and passe partout.

the fastest
and the nation’s last,
the mould shattered
in the silver froth of her wake.
her sails unfurled
round half the world.

once mistress of the ocean
and heir to the horizon,
now she languishes,
forever becalmed,
a tourist trap in dry dock.

dreaming of the open waves,
men clinging death-defyingly
to her treacherous trellis of rigging,
the cape, the equator,
the trade winds and the doldrums.
all the hectic romance
of far away and long gone,
the other country of the past.

*Cutty Sark is 18th-century Scots for ‘short chemise’ or ‘short undergarment’. Cutty Sark was built on the River Clyde in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, one of the last tea clippers and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development, which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion. (From Wikipedia) Illustration is The Great Wave by D. Swan © Cutty Sark Trust from this site