If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Happy Birthday Miss Titanic

The last picture ever taken of the Titanic

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Titanic. The ship has become a symbol of man's vanity and the folly of thinking that technology can vanquish nature. Miss Titanic, you are the Industrial Revolution. It was the subject of a poem by Thomas Hardy, which I referred to a year ago when I recombined the two blogs - the title was the only connection, but it seemed apt. I didn't print the text of the poem then, so I will remedy that now. Last May, I wrote
I think I first read the poem at about the age of 13, and it was the first poem that I 'got', and that I felt was worth the effort of understanding
In fact, I now think it was earlier, about age 11 and the start of secondary school. I liked the creepiness of the underwater world, and in fact the thought of diving a wreck gives me a chill even now. The teacher took the time to explain the various images, and the multiple meanings in the last line, and I think that was the first time I really understood that the 'poetry' I had been forced to endure at primary school (mainly butterflies, rainbows and little lambkins) was nothing like the real thing. Hardy is a bit stuffy and intellectually 'thin' for today's readers, but to a keen 11-year-old reading this was like a first hit of crack cocaine.

The Convergence Of The Twain
In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.


Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.


Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls--grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.


Jewels in joy designed
To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.


Dim moon-eyed fishes near
Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: "What does this vaingloriousness down here?". . .


Well: while was fashioning
This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything


Prepared a sinister mate
For her--so gaily great--
A Shape of Ice, for the time fat and dissociate.


And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.


Alien they seemed to be:
No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history.


Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one August event,


Till the Spinner of the Years
Said "Now!" And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

Thomas Hardy, 1915


  1. You have some good wreck diving around the Pembroke coasts - if you can stand the cold and dark!

    There are also remains of some Shorts flying boats onm the sea bed at Pembroke Dock - these were mainly made next to the Harland and Wolf yard at Queens island.

  2. I've been very tempted. I used to work with a girl who dived wrecks all the time, and had a few good tales to tell. The main remnants of the Sunderlands are the concrete blocks they used to moor on. These take the bottoms out of speedboats on a regular basis! (The Birmingham Navy, who haven't learned to read a chart or understand tide depths.)


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