The Ship of Death


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.

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