Submit a Poem
Get Your Premium Membership
spacer

The Ship of Death

Written by: David Herbert Lawrence | Biography
 | Quotes (99) |
 I 

Now it is autumn and the falling fruit 
and the long journey towards oblivion. 

The apples falling like great drops of dew 
to bruise themselves an exit from themselves. 

And it is time to go, to bid farewell 
to one's own self, and find an exit 
from the fallen self. 

II 

Have you built your ship of death, O have you? 
O build your ship of death, for you will need it. 

The grim frost is at hand, when the apples will fall 
thick, almost thundrous, on the hardened earth. 

And death is on the air like a smell of ashes! 
Ah! can't you smell it? 
And in the bruised body, the frightened soul 
finds itself shrinking, wincing from the cold 
that blows upon it through the orifices. 

III 

And can a man his own quietus make 
with a bare bodkin? 

With daggers, bodkins, bullets, man can make 
a bruise or break of exit for his life; 
but is that a quietus, O tell me, is it quietus? 

Surely not so! for how could murder, even self-murder 
ever a quietus make? 

IV 

O let us talk of quiet that we know, 
that we can know, the deep and lovely quiet 
of a strong heart at peace! 

How can we this, our own quietus, make? 

V 

Build then the ship of death, for you must take 
the longest journey, to oblivion. 

And die the death, the long and painful death 
that lies between the old self and the new. 

Already our bodies are fallen, bruised, badly bruised, 
already our souls are oozing through the exit 
of the cruel bruise. 

Already the dark and endless ocean of the end 
is washing in through the breaches of our wounds, 
Already the flood is upon us. 

Oh build your ship of death, your little ark 
and furnish it with food, with little cakes, and wine 
for the dark flight down oblivion. 

VI 

Piecemeal the body dies, and the timid soul 
has her footing washed away, as the dark flood rises. 

We are dying, we are dying, we are all of us dying 
and nothing will stay the death-flood rising within us 
and soon it will rise on the world, on the outside world. 

We are dying, we are dying, piecemeal our bodies are dying 
and our strength leaves us, 
and our soul cowers naked in the dark rain over the flood, 
cowering in the last branches of the tree of our life. 

VII 

We are dying, we are dying, so all we can do 
is now to be willing to die, and to build the ship 
of death to carry the soul on the longest journey. 

A little ship, with oars and food 
and little dishes, and all accoutrements 
fitting and ready for the departing soul. 

Now launch the small ship, now as the body dies 
and life departs, launch out, the fragile soul 
in the fragile ship of courage, the ark of faith 
with its store of food and little cooking pans 
and change of clothes, 
upon the flood's black waste 
upon the waters of the end 
upon the sea of death, where still we sail 
darkly, for we cannot steer, and have no port. 

There is no port, there is nowhere to go 
only the deepening blackness darkening still 
blacker upon the soundless, ungurgling flood 
darkness at one with darkness, up and down 
and sideways utterly dark, so there is no direction any more 
and the little ship is there; yet she is gone. 
She is not seen, for there is nothing to see her by. 
She is gone! gone! and yet 
somewhere she is there. 
Nowhere! 

VIII 

And everything is gone, the body is gone 
completely under, gone, entirely gone. 
The upper darkness is heavy as the lower, 
between them the little ship 
is gone 

It is the end, it is oblivion. 

IX 

And yet out of eternity a thread 
separates itself on the blackness, 
a horizontal thread 
that fumes a little with pallor upon the dark. 

Is it illusion? or does the pallor fume 
A little higher? 
Ah wait, wait, for there's the dawn 
the cruel dawn of coming back to life 
out of oblivion 

Wait, wait, the little ship 
drifting, beneath the deathly ashy grey 
of a flood-dawn. 

Wait, wait! even so, a flush of yellow 
and strangely, O chilled wan soul, a flush of rose. 

A flush of rose, and the whole thing starts again. 

X 

The flood subsides, and the body, like a worn sea-shell 
emerges strange and lovely. 
And the little ship wings home, faltering and lapsing 
on the pink flood, 
and the frail soul steps out, into the house again 
filling the heart with peace. 

Swings the heart renewed with peace 
even of oblivion. 

Oh build your ship of death. Oh build it! 
for you will need it. 
For the voyage of oblivion awaits you.



Comments