The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Thursday

Song for All Seas, All Ships
By Walt Whitman


To-day a rude brief recitative,
Of ships sailing the Seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal;
Of unnamed heroes in the ships—Of waves spreading and spreading, far as the eye can reach;
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing;
And out of these a chant, for the sailors of all nations,
Fitful, like a surge.

Of Sea-Captains young or old, and the Mates—and of all intrepid Sailors;
Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise, nor death dismay,
Pick'd sparingly, without noise, by thee, old Ocean—chosen by thee,
Thou Sea, that pickest and cullest the race, in Time, and unitest Nations!
Suckled by thee, old husky Nurse—embodying thee!
Indomitable, untamed as thee.

(Ever the heroes, on water or on land, by ones or twos appearing,
Ever the stock preserv'd, and never lost, though rare—enough for seed preserv'd.)


Flaunt out O Sea, your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out, visible as ever, the various ship-signals!
But do you reserve especially for yourself, and for the soul of man, one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven Signal, for all nations, emblem of man elate above death,
Token of all brave captains, and all intrepid sailors and mates,
And all that went down doing their duty;
Reminiscent of them—twined from all intrepid captains, young or old;
A pennant universal, subtly waving, all time, o'er all brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.


I have been on board the HMS Surprise! That was, of course, the first place we went at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, where I sadly could not touch the wheel which had just been revarnished, but I did walk around Jack Aubrey's cabin and sit where Stephen Maturin sat sulking in the stern and touched the masts and ropes and guns and took photos of everything, even the postcard Russell Crowe had autographed for the staff in the gift shop. *g* The bell on the ship still says HMS Rose, her original name before the refit for the film, and the exhibits from the film have been moved aside in favor of pirate stuff, but I still cannot overstate what a thrill it was to be on the ship.

When we disembarked from the Surprise, we visited the claustrophobic Soviet submarine B-39, after which the kids were hungry so we walked to a sandwich place near the ferry launch. Then we walked further along the water to the aircraft carrier USS Midway, which is a truly extraordinary experience: it's like a small city, or at least a medium-sized college, and even though we only saw a small portion of the vessel, we walked more than a mile while aboard (the flight deck alone is bigger than four acres). The audio tour includes various quarters from the enlisted men's berths through the admiral's cabin, two galleys, the laundry, the engine room, the sickbay, machine shops, the anchor chains on the forecastle, and two dozen planes and helicopters on the flight and hangar decks.

We stopped for ice cream, then returned to the maritime museum which was open much later than the Midway, visiting the historic merchant sailing ship Star of India, the yacht Medea, and the ferry Berkeley which houses the museum collections and gift shop. When we got tired of walking, we sat and watched film clips about the Age of Steam (Steamboat Willie, The African Queen, Titanic) and went up to the ferry's beautiful restored passenger deck with stained glass panels all around. The sun was beginning to set by the time we left, walking past dozens of sailboats and circling pelicans. I took dozens of photos and promise to post an entire night's worth of nothing but the Surprise when I get home, but for now...

HMS Surprise at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, which is housed primarily in the white ferry in the background.

Me as close to the newly varnished wheel as I could get!

And just pretend Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are on the other side of those windows, playing violin and cello.

From above, the Russian sub appears to be sneaking up to attack the Surprise. It looks a lot like a US sub of the same era, but with more wiring exposed. And in a charming design choice, there is a toilet immediately behind the periscope.

Star of India, reportedly the world's oldest regularly active ship, the prettiest iron ship I have ever seen.

The gorgeous restored passenger deck of the steam ferry Berkeley, which used to travel from that city to San Francisco.

It is very hard to convey a sense of exactly how enormous the USS Midway appears to be while standing beside her or walking through her quarters.

Over 20 vehicles are displayed on her flight deck. Then comes the runway. It just goes on and on and on...

On Thursday we have a long drive to Zion National Park in Utah. I have no idea what our internet options will be like, so here's hoping I can connect!
Tags: trip west 08

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