Literature: The Three-Decker
is a poem by Rudyard Kipling
exulting in the Escapist
nature of the Victorian
Please don't edit Mr. Kipling's deathless poetry
, except to format and blue-shift
it. Please do
blue-shift as much as possible.
"The three-volume novel is extinct."
Full thirty foot she towered from waterline to rail.
It took a watch to steer her, and a week to shorten sail;
But, spite all modern notions, I've found her first and best — The only certain packet for the Islands of the Blest.
Fair held the breeze behind us — 'twas warm with lovers' prayers,
We'd stolen wills
for ballast and a crew of missing heirs. They shipped as Able Bastards till the Wicked Nurse confessed,
And they worked the old three-decker to the Islands of the Blest.
By ways no gaze could follow, a course unspoiled of Cook,
Per Fancy, fleetest in man, our titled berths
With maids of matchless beauty
and parentage unguessed
And a Church of England parson
for the Islands of the Blest.
We asked no social questions — we pumped no hidden shame — We never talked obstetrics when the Little Stranger came:
We left the Lord in Heaven, we left the fiends in Hell.
We weren't exactly Yussufs, but — Zuleika didn't tell.No moral doubts assailed us, so when the port we neared
, The villain had his flogging at the gangway
, and we cheered
. 'Twas fiddle in the foc's'le
— 'twas garlands on the mast
For every one was married
, and I went at shore at last
I left 'em all in couples a-kissing
on the decks.
I left the lovers loving
and parents signing cheques
In endless English comfort, by county-folk
I left the old three-decker at the Islands of the Blest! . . .
That route is barred to steamers: you'll never lift again Our purple-painted headlands
or the lordly keeps of Spain
They're just beyond your skyline, howe'er so far you cruise,
In a ram-you-damn-you liner with a brace of bucking screws.
Swing round your aching searchlight — 'twill show no haven's peace. Ay, blow your shrieking sirens at the deaf, grey-bearded seas! Boom out the dripping oil-bags to skin the deep's unrest --
And you aren't one knot the nearer to the Islands of the Blest.But when you're threshing, crippled, with broken bridge and rail, At a drogue of dead convictions to hold you head to gale, Calm as the Flying Dutchman
, from truck to taffrail dressed,
You'll see the old three-decker for the Islands of the Blest.
You'll see her tiering canvas in sheeted silver spread;
You'll hear the long-drawn thunder 'neath her leaping figure-head;
While far, so far above you, her tall poop-lanterns shine Unvexed by wind or weather like the candles round a shrine!
Hull down — hull down and under — she dwindles to a speck, With noise of pleasant music and dancing on her deck
All's well — all's well aboard her — she's left you far behind, With a scent of old-world roses
through the fog that ties you blind.Her crews are babes or madmen?
Her port is all to make? You're manned by Truth and Science
, and you steam for steaming's sake?
Well, tinker up your engines — you know your business best —
She's taking tired people to the Islands of the Blest!