Though all the fates should prove unkind,
Leave not your native land behind.
The ship, becalmed, at length stands still;
The steed must rest beneath the hill;
But swiftly still our fortunes pace
To find us out in every place.
The vessel, though her masts be firm,
Beneath her copper bears a worm;
Around the cape, across the line,
Till fields of ice her course confine;
It matters not how smooth the breeze,
How shallow or how deep the seas,
Whether she bears Manilla twine,
Or in her hold Madeira wine,
Or China teas, or Spanish hides,
In port or quarantine she rides;
Far from New England's blustering shore,
New England's worm her hulk shall bore,
And sink her in the Indian seas,
Twine, wine, and hides, and China teas.
--Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Ok, the copper is the ship's keel? And the worm is the wake left by the ship, mebbe? But, if so, how does that same worm sink the ship in Indian seas?
My understanding is that it is these:
but they can surely be picked up anywhere?
The hull of the ship is clad with copper sheets. Copper is a poison and this is to slow the growth of weed and barnacles on the hull which slow the ship down.
Hugh, if the voyage Thoreau took down the Merrimac is a metaphor for the "voyage through men's civilizations" as is suggested from the text here: [www.gutenberg.org] then, the worm may be his euphemism for the decay of past generations, or in common terms the "wormwood" of men's past travails on earth.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/04/2006 01:05AM by lg.
I'm sure it's very likely that there's some"you bring a part of home with you wherever you go" type of thingy, but speaking literally, my understanding is that shipworms are picked up in tropical waters.
He's stating that the worms are ALREADY in the wood.
and termites aren't worms
Good points, thanks! Point of trivia - Henry David's last name apparently rhymed with Don Diego de la Vega's secret identity, not the French wine region.
Thoro ! Thoro! Thoro !
A New Englander might himself wonder, perhaps through irrelevent association, if the worm that might sink such a ship might be, for Henry, in his time, a cargo of slaves come in return.
Ida neva thought ta pronounce it any other way, bein from Boston.