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Odyssey from Africa 14d

Chapter 14d (King Ptolemy the second, cont.)

“And upon the open ocean
Far from land in roving sail-ships
How to find the congregations 
Of the sharks and rays and tuna

“Where the seabirds thresh the water
Diving after shoals of sardine
Countless million rays of silver
Summoning the ocean banquet 

“Swordfish and the leaping dolphins 
Albacore and Mahi-Mahi
Monstrous whales that breach the surface 
Rising from the nether darkness!” 

Han was filled with joy and wonder 
And a little trepidation 
At the king’s inspiring knowledge 
And his passion for the ocean 

So he asked of him a question 
Of the hardship they experienced 
Several seasons of poor catches
In his native fishing village 

Had the fishing on this island
Likewise seen a fall in landings?
And King Ptolemy responded
That this had indeed been suffered

And this was the very reason 
That the King had instigated
Special projects for the study
Of the ocean and the climate 

Then he called out to a servant
“Speak to me the weather forecast!”
And at this the servant signaled
To a nearby wooden watchtower

With a height about ten meters
Where two watchmen kept a vigil
On the tower’s topmost platform,
Called on them to give the forecast

And the forecast was provided 
But no single word was spoken 
As with outstretched arms a watchman
Waved in both his hands a pennant 
One was blue, the other yellow
Now he gave successive signals
Held the flags at varied angles
Which conveyed by combination 

Bits of coded information 
Would the day bring cloud or sunshine?
Was there any chance of rainstorms? 
Of the wind, its strength and bearing

Then the servant spoke the forecast 
Having read the flag-waved signals
Of a cloudless sky till moonrise 
When the wind would change direction 

Bringing rain showers on the morrow
Possibly a storm by evening 
“Splendid, splendid!” cried the monarch
“We shall see the stars at night time!”

Then King Ptolemy recounted
How all round the Island’s coastline 
And across its central uplands
They had built a chain of watchtowers 

Which reported on the weather
Every morning, noon and evening 
With the coded flag-waved signals
That from tower to tower transmitted 

All the weather observations 
To the town of Cannabarro
Gathered at the Royal Palace
To be studied by the scholars 

Who upon a large round table
Laid a map of all the kingdom 
With the near adjacent islands
And the close surrounding ocean

Copyright © | Year Posted 2018

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