The night winds caught the spindrift

There is something wonderful about writing – it takes you to places you never expect, and reveals things you never knew – about yourself, about the world, about life… it also leads you to discover all sorts of interesting things – as I’ve mentioned in my recent posts about zeppelins in WW!

The topic for my Friday writing group this time was air/wind/sky/flight, and we had six completely different pieces of writing.

  • a poem about General James Woolf’s men scaling the Heights of Abraham
  • a short story about a heavenly baker
  • a revolutionary design for aircraft
  • a short story about an old airman’s final days
  • an unexplained and possibly unexplainable incident on a flight to Reykjavik
  • my fantasy/post-apocalyptic short story (or maybe the start of something longer) set in a remote and inaccessible cave on the top of a mountain

While writing my story entitled ‘The wind is my enemy, the wind is my friend‘, I investigated different types of winds, some of which I had heard of such as the mistral and the sirocco, but many were completely unknown to me. One I did recognise was the roaring forties, which took me to a poet, by An American called Burt Franklin Jenness, of whom I had never heard.

Dr Jenness was born in 1876 and pursued a career in medicine, serving as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy during World War 1; he died in 1971 at the grand age of ninety-one. His passion was poetry and he published several books,and also shared his work in magazines, newspapers and anthologies.

Here is an example…

Sea Dreams

If you’ve ever stood a midwatch in the cavern of the night,
With the sea wolves racing past you in a pack;
With the steely star a-playing ’round the mastheads for a light,
And the bucking trades possessed to drive you back;
If you’ve ever seen a sunset on a copper colored sea,
When the sky was like a polished compass bowl;
And the night winds caught the spindrift from the waves and tossed it free
Till to leeward you could see a silvery shoal.If you’ve ever read your compass by a fulling tropic moon,
As it slowly rose above its jungle bed;
Dripping silver in the waters of a coral-fringed lagoon,
Till it hung there like a shining capstan head;
If you’ve heard the whining Forties day and night about your ears,
And have cursed your packet’s ceaseless, sickening roll —
With the backstays all complaining and the creaking of the gears,
Then you’ll understand the fretting in my soul.

For the wind has shifted east’r’d, and the long green rollers call,
And a brown-skinned lass is beckoning to me;
The starb’r’d watch is yarning, and I’m longing for it all —
So it’s any wind’ll take me back to sea.

If you’ve heard the screws a-grumbling when the craft was cruising light
Or the scuppers gurgle back the weather seas;
If you’ve tailed behind a typhoon in a hellish running fight,
And have felt your oil-skins freeze about your knees;
If you’ve heard the crack of head seas, and have felt the settling hull
Or the stern go heaving skyward till she raced;
If you’ve seen her take the green ones till she quivered like a gull,
And a river ran athwart-ships at her waist.

If you’ve cleared the reefs of Suva, and have sighted Sydney head;
If you’ve lifted Sugar Loaf just after dawn;
If you’ve made Corrigador, and have swung the sounding lead
In the channels of the world where you have gone;
If you’ve cruised with lousy shipmates, and have heard them curse and brawl;
If you know the seas from Rio to Hong Kong;
If you’ve loafed about the waterfronts of every port of call —
Then you’ll understand the burden of my song.

Oh, the wind has shifted east’r’d, and the long green rollers call,
And a brown-skinned lass is beckoning to me;
The starb’r’d watch is yarning — and I’m longing for it all,
So it’s any wind’ll take me back to sea.

Burt Franklin Jenness


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