Sunday 22 January 2017

The Launch

Alice Meynell (1847-1922) converted to Roman Catholicism at the age of 20 and some years later married the author, editor and Catholic apologist Wilfrid Meynell. The couple became famous in literary history because they rescued the poet Francis Thompson from the Embankment seat on which he was sleeping and kept him more or less in drug-free sobriety for the rest of his days. As well as much literary journalism, Alice published five volumes of poetry, and in spite of her Catholicism maintained her independence and originality of thought. This is one of the few poems about death which manages to say anything at all for, as William Empson observed, it is a subject on which there is very little that is useful or illuminating to be said.

Anthony Cronin

Published 14/11/2011 | 06:00

Forth, to the alien gravity,

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Forth, to the laws of ocean, we

Builders on earth by laws of land

Entrust this creature of our hand

Upon the calculated sea.

Fast bound to shore we cling, we creep,

And make our ship ready to leap

Light to the flood, equipped to ride

The strange conditions of the tide --

New weight, new force, new world: the Deep.

Ah thus -- not thus -- the Dying, kissed,

Cherished, exhorted, shriven, dismissed;

By all the eager means we hold

We, warm, prepare him for the cold,

To keep the incalculable tryst.

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