The Shipwright and His Boat

A boat floated just off the pier, severe
The sight, did not appear to quite cohere
To scenes the pier was most accustomed to.
Despite its watertight design, a crew
That knew their ropes by day, by night, frostbite,
Sun’s scorching light that did not one affright,
The boat moved not a mote, did not untwine
Its ropes, not once, from each dock cleat. Each line,
All nine, held fast the slave, and did repeat
Again, again, the slow and steady beat
Of waves against the hull, defeat, a grave.
Yet truth be told, the vessel didn’t crave
Its freedom. It was scared, not brave, controlled
Much more by fear than ropes, with manifold
Objections to the sea: the cold, compared
To others it was small and unprepared,
Not once had dared to venture out, why now?
Let other vessels plow the waves. Its bow
Might not endure them anyhow. Fierce doubt
Held sway within; routine held sway without.
It could not tout its travels or begin
To understand the other boats’ chagrin
That it had never left the dock. It scanned
The distant waters never seen firsthand,
But that was planned. So let the others mock.
The land was safe, the pier as strong as rock.
Then one day strode the shipwright on the pier,
And seeing that the ship he held so dear
Showed every sign it’d never towed a load
He slowed, then hurried up the pier, borrowed
An axe, returned. Then, coming to the site
Where floated his dear boat, he held on tight
To the hatchet, raised it, let fall a stroke
Upon a cleat rope. First it tore then broke,
Bespoke sure doom. Each blow did underscore
The vessel’s fear of ending up offshore,
Wind beaten, sea tossed, nights cold, hopeless, drear.
The shipwright’s motives were unclear, severe,
Yet onward did he chop. He didn’t scold
The boat, just kept on slashing rope. Each hold
The pier had kept fell one by one, non-stop,
Then three, then four, then five, each hatchet drop
Atop the ropes a sting clear through. It wept
To feel its maker’s hands, hands so adept
At crafting, turn against him with each swing.
The eighth, the ninth strings snapped. The man did fling
The axe down on the pier and watched and ran
A hand across his brow. The boat began
To float right out to sea. “I built your bow
And placed each wooden plank myself. I vow
My skill will keep you. Though the waves lambaste
You, though you find yourself displaced, disgraced,
Your sails defaced and nearly brought to waste,
I’ve braced you, graced you; every strut I’ve spaced
According to the winds you’ll face, inclined
My all to you, designed, refined, and signed
The manifest myself, assigned the crew,
Ensured the revenue to bring you through
Your debut voyage. Yes, hard pressed, distressed,
But blessed, and at my sure behest you’ll rest
Once more here at my pier, but not for long,
Of course. It’s wrong to bind you when your song
Was meant to be sung there upon the waves.
Those tied up here are slaves, but my axe saves
Them, brings them out of darkened graves, outside
The realm of fear. Whate’er betide, supplied
You’ll be. I’ve placed a good man at your helm
Not wind, waves, nothing can him overwhelm.”
The fearful boat clung fast to every word,
But soon the shipwright’s voice could not be heard.
True, the boat still preferred the pier. The choice,
However, had been made. Could it rejoice
Though scared, upon the waves? Could hope persuade
The boat to trust the shipwright’s words displayed
With unswayed confidence? Had he prepared
Beforehand everything the boat might need?
Had he foreseen each risk yet still agreed
To launch it out to sea? If so, might he
Be able to accomplish his decree
And bring the boat home safely once again?
Then for the first time something stirred within.
A foreign fire burned inside called hope.
It suddenly felt glad he’d cut the rope.

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