Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Brazilian Priest's Flying Ship, by Sue Wootton

The Brazilian priest's flying ship

GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE 56,1786

Scallop-hulled, my lovely vessel plies the air
on feathered wings. Her bowsprit beak splits clouds,

streams tufts of cumulus and stratus past
her flanks. Her rigging's no frayed salted grid of rope

mast-glued to crawling seas; she hoists no canvas tower
nor stands a man in any so-called nest - nay, she is the crow,

the actual bird, the raptor, gull, horizon-hunting
albatross. Her stately pinions beat. Her canopy's

an iron net strung liberally with amber beads. Gentlemen,
it's by this secret, modern, scientific operation (and by

God's will) we'll keep aloft. And swift, so swift! Two hundred
miles per day - unhindered reef-free sky! Flamboyant

whoop-whoop birds ablaze with jungle song ne'er heard by Christian ears
will roost with us on Tuesday, will decorate our snow-view

Andes Thursday plates with gaudy spectrum (plucked) of plump!
And never becalmed1 Bring forth the bellows. Pump, gentlemen, pump!

-Sue Wootton

Note a description and engraving of this flying ship was published in the Gentleman's Magazine 56, 1786. Invented by a Brazilian priest, the vessel was to be covered by "iron wire, in the form of a net, on which are fastened a good number of amber beads, which by a secret operation, will help keep the ship aloft'. It would offer fast travel ('200 miles in 24 hours') and utilize the latest modern technology (a pair of bellows stored fore and aft) to combat the doldrums.

Sue Wootton is a Dunedin poet and writer, whose work includes three poetry collections Hourglass (2005), Magnetic South (2008) and By Birdlight (2011), and a children's book, Cloudcatcher. This poem is taken from her third collection, By Birdlight, and the associated image is the cover image for the book.

I am giving away a copy of By Birdlight along with other books, in the Big Poetry Giveaway. I will be drawing the winners not too long after the end of the month, so if you would like to enter, add your name to the comments of this post.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site where you will find a poem by Lee Posna this week, and links to other participants in the side bar.

1 comment:

Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

What a glorious poem that one is! Thank you for posting it, Catherine.