The White Ship

This poem is based on a 12th century maritime disaster, the sinking of The White Ship. Aboard the ship was the heir to England, William Adelin and his death meant that when King Henry passed away, England was plunged into a brutal war for the throne.


1. The Sinking


Chopped as fingers  rustle  the dirty grey,

sighs and hisses, writes in torment.

Birds wheel  in the heaven's great freedom

As the sea  slams  solid harbour walls



A face, smooth  with youth,  a canvas of green,

A cloak that is wind's jealousy; snatched and coveted.

Feet tremble on the solidity of earth,

 this mass of demons  a new land,

Greedy for blood.


Eyes that spit out the impediments,

This golden haired youth will travel;

nature's power is feeble to prevent

The authority he will impose upon a nation.

He knows his place men will follow

on bent knee.


 Man', shuffling skip, all peacock pride.

"Your majesty, you sire, you Zeus of us all

This deck is not fit for the lowliest of your subjects.

Gates of a snowy white utopia unlocked at a single voyage

Await you and yours."


Fairy dust blows from an open palm , he spins away

To conjure a mighty vessel, white with the light of a thousand angels,

Like master, ship gloats in own pretention,

Noble, graceful, swan like upon the subdued waves on which it sits,

Ready to export mortal gods.


Fitzstephen, a son of a son of Poseidon's right - hand,

Whose hands so lovingly constructed a ship of kings before,

The Conqueror arrived safe on terra firma at pater's  glowing hands,

So why should not a son see another to safety and glory?


A wave of the hand and the sun bites at golden rings,

Dazzles of a beard threaded with silver, colour in wisdom.

Father's blessing on a beloved offspring.

Crowds peel apart like a split fruit, a road to harbour,

One road to storm-blast.




Aboard, a violent hand rocking the cradle,  delight

In tossing and hurling sea-sick babies, slamming and cackling.

Acidic remedy in the guise of  oblivious wine.

Head spinning in unison with the attack of the waves.

Steerage, intransient as a ghost.


A feeble ink-washed light dribbles  away,

Blanking the skies for the oncoming of night.

Greenish scum becomes blackened oil

And winds let forth from their cage

Snarl with revenge.


Shadowed blackness ,  darkness rising from oblivion,

Wine stupor paints the night in greys and silver moon slivers,

Rivulets tear and  wood is blistered

As raging sea accepts the invite

To invade.




Timbers, once bulk, bob the waves like birds

As abstract art litters the organic mass.

Bodies, whitened by death's cold hand

Are limp as waves transport them

Into the darkness.


Amongst them, a  gleaming head,

Hair bright as a majestic crown,

Hands made to command now

Kissed by salty ripples

As the seagulls cry lament.


England divided, a crown broken,

Loyalties waver then drift as smoke,

And people cower with no protection,

Water took a king  to be

now fire rules England.



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