Sunday, January 7, 2018

‘The Ocean’s Dusky Smile’

The Isle of Hy-Brasil by Robert E. Howard, Reading from pages 51-54 of A Word from the Outer Dark

An impression by James LaFond

At 49 lines in 11 verses, The Isle of Hy-Brasil is one of Howard’s longer poems.

The poem whimsically addresses ages known and unknown, from prehistory to a dreaming present, where a writer searching memories of tales of old might wander through the imagery of man striving into the unknown for a setting for a tale, a tale that might be an echo of much more.

Below are verses three and six:

For sailing ships are anchored close, about that ancient isle,
Ships that roamed the oceans in the dim dawn days,
Coracles from Britain, triremes from the Nile,
Anchored round the harbors, mile on countless mile,
Ships and ships and shades of ships, fading in the haze.

High ships, proud ships, towering at their poops,
Galleons flaunting their pinnacles of pride,
Battleships and merchantmen and long, lean sloops,
Flagships floating with the schooners on the tide.

The Isle of Hy-Brasil, figuring prominently in Howard’s Gaelic mythology, with the voyage of Saint Brandon in his hide boats, is, it seems to the author of this whimsy, an imperishable place in the collective mind of seafaring and worldfaring men, both sailors on Oceanic Fate.

(c) 2018 James LaFond

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