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Ballad Of The Long-Legged Bait

Written by: Dylan Thomas | Biography
 | Quotes (57) |
 The bows glided down, and the coast
Blackened with birds took a last look
At his thrashing hair and whale-blue eye;
The trodden town rang its cobbles for luck.
Then good-bye to the fishermanned Boat with its anchor free and fast As a bird hooking over the sea, High and dry by the top of the mast, Whispered the affectionate sand And the bulwarks of the dazzled quay.
For my sake sail, and never look back, Said the looking land.
Sails drank the wind, and white as milk He sped into the drinking dark; The sun shipwrecked west on a pearl And the moon swam out of its hulk.
Funnels and masts went by in a whirl.
Good-bye to the man on the sea-legged deck To the gold gut that sings on his reel To the bait that stalked out of the sack, For we saw him throw to the swift flood A girl alive with his hooks through her lips; All the fishes were rayed in blood, Said the dwindling ships.
Good-bye to chimneys and funnels, Old wives that spin in the smoke, He was blind to the eyes of candles In the praying windows of waves But heard his bait buck in the wake And tussle in a shoal of loves.
Now cast down your rod, for the whole Of the sea is hilly with whales, She longs among horses and angels, The rainbow-fish bend in her joys, Floated the lost cathedral Chimes of the rocked buoys.
Where the anchor rode like a gull Miles over the moonstruck boat A squall of birds bellowed and fell, A cloud blew the rain from its throat; He saw the storm smoke out to kill With fuming bows and ram of ice, Fire on starlight, rake Jesu's stream; And nothing shone on the water's face But the oil and bubble of the moon, Plunging and piercing in his course The lured fish under the foam Witnessed with a kiss.
Whales in the wake like capes and Alps Quaked the sick sea and snouted deep, Deep the great bushed bait with raining lips Slipped the fins of those humpbacked tons And fled their love in a weaving dip.
Oh, Jericho was falling in their lungs! She nipped and dived in the nick of love, Spun on a spout like a long-legged ball Till every beast blared down in a swerve Till every turtle crushed from his shell Till every bone in the rushing grave Rose and crowed and fell! Good luck to the hand on the rod, There is thunder under its thumbs; Gold gut is a lightning thread, His fiery reel sings off its flames, The whirled boat in the burn of his blood Is crying from nets to knives, Oh the shearwater birds and their boatsized brood Oh the bulls of Biscay and their calves Are making under the green, laid veil The long-legged beautiful bait their wives.
Break the black news and paint on a sail Huge weddings in the waves, Over the wakeward-flashing spray Over the gardens of the floor Clash out the mounting dolphin's day, My mast is a bell-spire, Strike and smoothe, for my decks are drums, Sing through the water-spoken prow The octopus walking into her limbs The polar eagle with his tread of snow.
From salt-lipped beak to the kick of the stern Sing how the seal has kissed her dead! The long, laid minute's bride drifts on Old in her cruel bed.
Over the graveyard in the water Mountains and galleries beneath Nightingale and hyena Rejoicing for that drifting death Sing and howl through sand and anemone Valley and sahara in a shell, Oh all the wanting flesh his enemy Thrown to the sea in the shell of a girl Is old as water and plain as an eel; Always good-bye to the long-legged bread Scattered in the paths of his heels For the salty birds fluttered and fed And the tall grains foamed in their bills; Always good-bye to the fires of the face, For the crab-backed dead on the sea-bed rose And scuttled over her eyes, The blind, clawed stare is cold as sleet.
The tempter under the eyelid Who shows to the selves asleep Mast-high moon-white women naked Walking in wishes and lovely for shame Is dumb and gone with his flame of brides.
Susannah's drowned in the bearded stream And no-one stirs at Sheba's side But the hungry kings of the tides; Sin who had a woman's shape Sleeps till Silence blows on a cloud And all the lifted waters walk and leap.
Lucifer that bird's dropping Out of the sides of the north Has melted away and is lost Is always lost in her vaulted breath, Venus lies star-struck in her wound And the sensual ruins make Seasons over the liquid world, White springs in the dark.
Always good-bye, cried the voices through the shell, Good-bye always, for the flesh is cast And the fisherman winds his reel With no more desire than a ghost.
Always good luck, praised the finned in the feather Bird after dark and the laughing fish As the sails drank up the hail of thunder And the long-tailed lightning lit his catch.
The boat swims into the six-year weather, A wind throws a shadow and it freezes fast.
See what the gold gut drags from under Mountains and galleries to the crest! See what clings to hair and skull As the boat skims on with drinking wings! The statues of great rain stand still, And the flakes fall like hills.
Sing and strike his heavy haul Toppling up the boatside in a snow of light! His decks are drenched with miracles.
Oh miracle of fishes! The long dead bite! Out of the urn a size of a man Out of the room the weight of his trouble Out of the house that holds a town In the continent of a fossil One by one in dust and shawl, Dry as echoes and insect-faced, His fathers cling to the hand of the girl And the dead hand leads the past, Leads them as children and as air On to the blindly tossing tops; The centuries throw back their hair And the old men sing from newborn lips: Time is bearing another son.
Kill Time! She turns in her pain! The oak is felled in the acorn And the hawk in the egg kills the wren.
He who blew the great fire in And died on a hiss of flames Or walked the earth in the evening Counting the denials of the grains Clings to her drifting hair, and climbs; And he who taught their lips to sing Weeps like the risen sun among The liquid choirs of his tribes.
The rod bends low, divining land, And through the sundered water crawls A garden holding to her hand With birds and animals With men and women and waterfalls Trees cool and dry in the whirlpool of ships And stunned and still on the green, laid veil Sand with legends in its virgin laps And prophets loud on the burned dunes; Insects and valleys hold her thighs hard, Times and places grip her breast bone, She is breaking with seasons and clouds; Round her trailed wrist fresh water weaves, with moving fish and rounded stones Up and down the greater waves A separate river breathes and runs; Strike and sing his catch of fields For the surge is sown with barley, The cattle graze on the covered foam, The hills have footed the waves away, With wild sea fillies and soaking bridles With salty colts and gales in their limbs All the horses of his haul of miracles Gallop through the arched, green farms, Trot and gallop with gulls upon them And thunderbolts in their manes.
O Rome and Sodom To-morrow and London The country tide is cobbled with towns And steeples pierce the cloud on her shoulder And the streets that the fisherman combed When his long-legged flesh was a wind on fire And his loin was a hunting flame Coil from the thoroughfares of her hair And terribly lead him home alive Lead her prodigal home to his terror, The furious ox-killing house of love.
Down, down, down, under the ground, Under the floating villages, Turns the moon-chained and water-wound Metropolis of fishes, There is nothing left of the sea but its sound, Under the earth the loud sea walks, In deathbeds of orchards the boat dies down And the bait is drowned among hayricks, Land, land, land, nothing remains Of the pacing, famous sea but its speech, And into its talkative seven tombs The anchor dives through the floors of a church.
Good-bye, good luck, struck the sun and the moon, To the fisherman lost on the land.
He stands alone in the door of his home, With his long-legged heart in his hand.



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