The Mighty Fleet

An Ode To Light

The Mighty Fleet sails at dawn -

Will you be on?  -  Be on!

The Holy Barge, with Galleon Mast

The Hallowed Crew, planks and sail,

The Cherished Breeze, the Ancient Breath,

The Polished Cabin, the Dripping Oars

The Battle Ramp, the Iron Chain --

The Plundering Force is set for dawn,

The Anchor, hurled, caught hold

The Mighty Storm, the Host, pulls out --

Will you be on?  It is nearly dawn!

The Might Fleet shall sail.

The Death Bell knolls, the Spire glistens,

The Captain is dead, he's had no Birth,

The Mate - the Captain's Mate -

He lied.

There was no Captain.  The Mate

has lied.

The Mighty Fleet is on its own.


"Cap'n Isis - Cap'n Isis," called the Steward - "But halt - who goes there?" he said.

"'Tis only I, the Mate," replied the Mate.  "Our Cap'n sleeps, he sleepeth sound," he said.  "Disturb him not."

"Aye - disturb him no man shall," spoke the Steward.  "I never seen him yet!"  "Nor none," he added, a moment late.

"'Tis true," replied the Mate, "'tis all true."

"Aye - aye, 'tis true," the Steward said.

The Steward left, returned topside.  The Mate laughed hard, he spit up blood - he'd had a dram for dinner - he drew it 'side, and there fashioned a shadow, and set it twixt the crack of Cap'n Isis' door - 'twould make a good Captain, thought he.  A fine good Captain, thought he.  For the Fleet must sail at dawn - Cap'n Isis: he'll be on!


The Vespers were said, the Blessing invoked;

The men stood 'round; the Chaplain bowed;

The Mate looked on, he grinned hard.

Cap'n Isis, thought he, Cap'n Isis hears

your prayer - sees your shadow,

where Cap'n Isis' door be closed, thought he.

The Stroke of One was heard; the hand

was swift that rang, the sound, muffled.

Four bells, thought the Captain's Mate:

four bells, and 'tis done.

The fourth - the fourth will be at dawn.

At dawn - when they'll all be on.


"Praise be the Lord," began the Chaplain's voice, "Praise to Him - and to our Captain grand," said his voice, while all the men - the very stuff of Man - rang out, their voices clean, but fog about the Chapel.  "Praise to the Lord; hail to Cap'n Isis," said they all, thinking clean words - their clean words - would catch no dust, nor stain no ground, nor draw no blood, nor flay no soul.  But dust, dirt, gore, and other plunder, inside as out - such things compose their own prayer, or are composed.  And the Mate - he grinned hard, and set to look old Cap'n Isis in the eye, the shadow eye, the bloody eye.  "We'll off at dawn, sailors one and all, with Cap'n Isis on the Helm," said he.  "And we'll all be on.  We'll all, be on."


On topside's grain, as black as night,

But with a beam of light - from him,

little Skippy, cabin boy, with

lantern, too: he was keeper of the

torch, a lowly task, but a mighty

task: he did it well -

On topside stands the oarsman, tall

and lean, and caught alone, no

other life about, save little Skippy's

lantern flicker, what dances 'round

his eyes, and on his brow.

"Aye, 'tis a night not good for

setting sail at dawn," spoke he,

speaking to his self, none other hearing.

"A night like this 'tis good to have

done - 'tis true there; but no dawn

of this night is e're to lightly

pass: that I'll tell: aye, good

Cap'n Isis - he'll hear that from me!'

Slender was his waist, broad his strength,

and loyal to his post as sun to light.

Tied once, and beat with rope - till

Cap'n Isis (it was said) had had

an end to pain, and took the mended

flesh and bone and gave it oars -

Ah! now there's a thing to give

your all - good Cap'n Isis: there's

a man to be beholdin'.

"Aye, I'll work for him till my

flesh drops off - till I'm dead.

For I've a debt - there's a truth -

For Cap'n Isis freed me all: damned

if I'll desert such as that!"

The masthead reeled, and shook a bit.  The clouds spread 'round, the masthead faded dead from view.  The Oarsman looked about; all was dark - covered in mist, all about - 'twas a funny thing, to be alone, to stand so near forlorn, one hand on oar, one on his brow: waiting for the dawn.  For when Cap'n Isis' ship sailed - he'd be on!


The Secret Chamber - the Sanctuary - the Armory

The great iron door, the heavy Seal

The blazoned latch, the heralded lock -

The store of Arms - the place of War;

The air was dank, the Fever raged,

The streams of blood, dried, withered,

The spread of dust, piles of bone;

The reception, a plan, edged in steel -

The Mighty Fleet would sail at dawn,

The Chamber will open, the Holy Sword,

Refinisher of man, that leaves no trail,

Save only what is cut of flesh -

The Holy Sword, on every throat -

The Mighty Fleet, set loose at dawn,

Cut down at noon, buried at night:

Will you be on?  Shall you be on?


"'Tis that you - shall that be you?" asked the Master of Arms, at his post, on his guard - "Shall that be you?"  "Aye, 'tis me!" replied the Captain's Mate, his voice still, his lips moistened, his being - his total being - poised, for the kill.  "Aye, truly 'tis me; none other," said the Mate.  "Then enter now, be unseen - for I'd heard you coming to knock 'fore my Armory," said the Master of Arms, grinning hard.

And harder still he grinned, when face to face with old Cap'n Isis' Mate, he said: "Aye, and how's your Captain, Mate - this Cap'n Isis, the one who's to guide this ship, the one what's ne'er yet been seen by man?" he said.  "He's very well - he's very fine and well," replied the Captain's Mate, that very Mate, the one who's said he's seen his Captain good, and spoken with him long, and e'en at great length on proper discourse, and heard the tales of all old seas, and flaming pits that snare a bright young sailor - aye! many such! - and many a heart that's told many a sad tale of men and sailors both, and many a soul what's been spared the pits by being flayed toward being good.  This very Mate, who's told all this: and now he tells his Captain's fine - and very well.

And grinning harder still then ere before, as fully hard as must to do the greater treachery even than the other, this Master of Arms, who stands amid his wares, and readies for his wars, and winks an eye - "Aye! 'tis well to hear your Captain's fine - old Cap'n Isis fine and well, ye say?" - winks an eye and grins, grins hard, but meek, soft and small, beside this Mate - Cap'n Isis' Mate: the one who sets the sail, and cuts the anchor loose: swift as he'd cut a nerve, an artery, and a thought - "Cut her down, old reason's not my style: sailors need her not."  "Cut her down," he says, "cut her down at dawn, set adrift, for anchor's not my style.  Cut her down, then let us on.  At dawn."

For the Mighty Fleet sails on its own.


At topside's deck, and starboard side,

The place, the spot, where starlight shines,

The side on which is written, secret,

    carved long hence, within the grain,

    that sacred matter, the one - the very

    one - that's kept the Fleet alive,

    that kept old death at bay, but

    gathered scars, mighty battle scars,

    a bunch for every sailing:

    this very sacred motto, written in

    the grain -

    "All men are Free, to Choose, to Think, to Be" -

Written in the grain, but now

    is covered, chanced to meet with

    icy fog, all made a crystal,

    but made unseen, no longer able

    in its way to speak itself to man -

At this very side, where thus was written,

    to be this night made to crystallize,

    frozen to helplessness,

There stands now Little Skippy, Cabin Boy,

    who guards the Flame, keeps the Torch,

    who stands a watchin' stars, who

    catches sight of frozen words, made

    crystal by the night, screened and

    trapped inside the grain, away - fast

    and hard away - from mankind reaching

    for this grain -

Little Skippy, a watchin' stars

grow dark as evening wanes, and words

grow cold as icy fog prevails;

Little Skippy, young boy on board,

all set to sail, who counts the stars and watches for the light, and

cleans the cabins and makes them all

to shine, and sparkle bright -

Little Skippy, happy, good and

watchful wise young boy, whose

hair is golden, whose eyes are azure,

whose hands are strong, whose

fingers long, whose brow is light,

and casts a glow across hisself,

whose tongue is mild, whose words

as true as grain - ship's grain,

put by earth and sea and sky

and sun into the wood, and set

to never move, not a mote, to

contradict its source: his words,

Little Skippy's words, as true as grain,

his thoughts as pure as life, as

real as light, as strong as wind,

his courage like none other living,

his honest ways as good for him

and man as rain to desert sand

or forest lush -

Little Skippy, a wonderin' if his

light, his flame, his torch for which

he risks his life to guard, won't

maybe cut this fog, and set it

back away, and melt its ice,

and set its prisoner free - its

captive, motto of man, guardian

of all man is and does, patron

of Cap'n Isis' Fleet, e'en before

there ever were such Cap'n Isis -

Little Skippy, a wonderin' if his light might set it free, released

at last, after all this night, from

icy fog, from cold froze crystal -

Little Skippy, a watchin' stars, and

wonderin' how it is old Cap'n Isis

thinks to set to sail his

Mighty Fleet 'fore his patron

words are free.

Little Skippy, to sail at dawn - and

not a word that man could see

not a single word for man to see,

for when he sails at dawn.


The men, at Vespers, had paid their due,

The Chaplain laid the fee, that

    very fee that Cap'n Isis' Mate

    had wrote upon a sheet, and

    draped about his Chaplain's nape -

The men had paid their due

The men had said their prayer

The men had bowed their heads

The men had sold their souls;

The soul of man is flayed,

Bent, and bent again, while he prayed;

The soul of man is Cap'n Isis' due -

    'Tis so, 'tis what the Captain's Mate,

    The Mate of Cap'n Isis, 

    said he heard from old Cap'n Isis lips,

    said he wrote, for to quilt the 

    Chaplain's nape, and said he

    knew, and 'twas true, for old

    Cap'n Isis, men, has never yet

    been heard or seen or known

    to tell a word - a single word -

    that was untrue.

"Aye," said the men, "we never yet done

heard a bad word yet a-come 

from Cap'n Isis' tongue."

"Aye," said they again, each one in

turn till all had come, inside

hisself, to think upon some special

word or any word he thought he'd

heard especial from

his Cap'n's tongue - heard apart

from all the rest, or in company

with 'em all: but heard, and

heard it from his Captain dear.  

"Aye," said each again, in turn, till all 

had made hisself to think upon

some special favored word he liked 

full much and thought he knew

he'd heard it special from his

Captain's tongue.

"Aye," yet again each man pronounced,

A special way this time, that

very way that men have found 

to use upon theirselves whene'er 

it came to pass that doubt cast

doubt upon their minds, and

all their thoughts are made to

cease, and stop at once, and freeze

in space, and come to crystal, and all,

at once together, to point the way

to where there is one thought alone, that very one that

seems to not belong, and null and

voids the rest, and cast a sheet of 

icy fog about theirselves and all their 

soul, and crack apart all other

thought, all thought, and every way

of thought, and leave itself alone

to guide and guard and lead the

man and all the men to where it will -

that very thought, that one that voids

the rest, and cuts in two the very way

of thought, and e'en the way to

thought: that very one; and all the

men have said their "Ayes"; and all their

many other thoughts, both good and

bad alike, are made to point to

where there lies this thought alone -

this thought that sure and true and

really Cap'n Isis must have done and 

spoken each a word, each man his

own especial favorite one fine word -

sure and true it must have been,

"for don't we not sail at dawn -

and is not Cap'n Isis on?"


The bell had stroked, its Second Stroke,

The men below turned round,

The sound was hard, and icy cold,

    it seemed would come 'longside

    this fleet, and tap a hole

    on starboard grain, and come

    a-crackin' through the wall -

    it seemed was trumpet for

    the sea, it seemed would clear a

    way - aye! a way for rage,

    the night, its rage, to come aboard,

    to fill the ship, both up on deck and down

    below, to drown and freeze, to

    kill and lay to rest each one, 

    each single one, each single man,

    what stood below a-listenin' to

    this stroke, what stood below

    a-wonderin' when the dawn would

    come - "Aye," said they, "'tis a dreaded

    sound, for sure, this second stroke,

    more so than e'en the first - but

    ain't we glad, aye, glad indeed,

    that Cap'n Isis is aboard; that our

    old Cap'n, Isis is the one, Cap'n to us

    all, Cap'n dear to all, and that

    he's on: that he'll be on, and

    with him all shall sail at dawn!"

"'Tis two," said the Mate, that Captain's Mate, Cap'n Isis' very special Mate - "'Tis two," said he, that very Mate that spit up blood before the bell stroked one, that spit it up and put it down, that spread it o'er the crack in Cap'n Isis door, that called it Cap'n Isis' shadow, his very own, and cast by Cap'n Isis dear, cast upon the place where plank meets door, cast for all to see - "Aye! They'll soon enough be struck with fear - 'tis sure they'll be a-wantin' soon, by time the bell strokes three, to see the shadow cast by him, by their own fine Captain dear, their own especial friend," said he, the Mate, then added yet another word, and said "'Tis true and real, this ship, this Mighty Fleet, shall sail at dawn, at stroke of four, shall sail at stroke of four, when all the time, that one what's played on bells of doom, shall have its final note, its very final chord, chimed out - at dawn, then fog abounds, and icy chill wraps 'round, and all the Fleet, the Mighty Fleet, while setting sail, shall split and sink and all be gone: aye! they'll need to know, these men, that Cap'n Isis, and his shadow, will be on!"


    The oarsman, still on topside deck,

    Still thinkin' on his task, his craft

    of oars, with which he and he alone

    shall set to moving all the strength

    and all the power - every bit of power -

    there is with which this Ship shall 

    sail - this oarsman, thinkin' on his task,

    has heard, as all have heard, himself

    above, all else below, e'en little Skippy

    watchin; with his flame has heard,

    this second stroke of bell, this icy chill

    and gruesome awful sound that sounds

    a way that none other tune can match -

    nor any other sound would dare to

    match; all have heard, but none

    more sadly, nor any man more

    cautious, than this the oarsman of the

    Fleet - this tall and straight and strong

    young man, this very one who loves so

    dear his blessed Captain, old Cap'n Isis,

    the one what's saved him from his

    chains and binds - "Aye, it's true," says he,

    if were it not for he, for that

    good Cap'n dear, that one what set me

    free - if not for him, then still I'd be

    below this deck, a-caught in chains,

    a-bowin' down before that

    Mate, a-feelin' on my back the pain of

    rope, a-wishin' I could lay and die,

    a-prayin' death might claim my soul,

    and all the sea would part and set a

    place for which to bury me: if were it 

    not for he, that Cap'n Isis, that one

    what made his Mate to set me loose,

    and put me here on topside deck, and let

    me stand, a man, and feel the wind

    and sea against my flesh, upon my brow -

    if not for he, I'd be still a-wantin'

    to quit my life, to leave aside fore'er

    this body and this brow what suits

    me well and that I love so dear.  But

    so it is I'm free, and standin' on this

    deck, and listenin' to the wind, and settin'

    all my skills toward settin' sail tomorrow

    dawn - aye!  I'm some afeard of this

    here stroke of bell - but not a thing

    there is, or e'er shall there be, can make

    me quit this post - this I swear, ne'er

    to go, not now or not at dawn, and

    not at all so long as he, my Captain

    dear, is on!"                                        


"Cap'n Isis, sir," said the steward, "Cap'n Isis: 'tis I, your cook, a-comin' with your food," said he, and tapped upon the door.

"Who goes there!" said the Mate, bellowed in his thunderous tone - "who goes toward Cap'n Isis room?"

"'Tis I," said the steward, "a-bringin' food for Captain's meal."

"Aye, it's well," replied the Mate, "it's well indeed - but leave it be, set it there, just by the door," added the Mate, a-watchin' mighty close now that time was moving on - moving toward the dawn.  "Leave it be, and trust your Mate, your Cap'n Isis' Mate, to see he gets his due - aye, I'll feed him, that I'll do, feed him every dram, every last fine drop, every bit that is his due," added this Mate, renewing once again his age-old plea, his oft sworn oath, that he, good Captain's Mate, would watch and feed and take full care of everything there be that has to do with keeping him, Cap'n Isis, fine and in good health - and keeping, too, all men and sailors well content, and well informed, and made to feel as sure as if they'd seen him, that their Captain dear, old Cap'n Isis, that very one, was here aboard, a-standin' in his room, before his door, a-castin' shadow on the floor, a-gettin' ready - aye, as all must do - to set the sail - to set full sail - at dawn.  To set full sail at dawn - and will you be on?


He'd planned hard, and long, this Mate - this Cap'n Isis' Mate; 

He'd planned for days, and nights on end,

He'd got together all his thoughts,

He'd turned 'em round about - he'd

    set 'em inside out - he'd covered 

    man with blood, he'd took the 

    blood to drink, he'd made the

    blood to set, to set upon the

    floor, below the door, upon that

    point where Cap'n Isis, as he said,

    was wont to go and stand

    and cast a shadow there - he'd

    made the men to pray, he'd caused

    the prayer to ne'er be heard - this

    Captain's not the one to hear -

    he'd set the oarsman free, he'd

    said it was his Cap'n dear; he'd

    set him free, free to row, to

    stroke the oar, to cut the string that

    anchored ship to port, or life to land,

    or man to earth, or mind to knowledge -

    set him free, this oarsman, tall and good, 

    to give his strength to setting sail, to setting

    sail at dawn, toward the black

    and icy fog of no-man's sea, of

    no-ship's sail, of no-life's

    place - toward the only other point 

    that's left when fleets go

    down - to drown, at dawn, amid

    the ice, among the fog, without a

    light, at stroke of four, with all

    the men, and all the minds, and

    you - if you'll be on.


"Aye, I'll need my light, that's for sure: we'll all need light, my little lantern light, and this very night," said he, atop the deck, on starboard bow - he, that little Skippy, that cabin boy, the one what's ne'er seen ought but planks and sides of ships, that's ne'er been adrift, nor far asight of port, nor caught amid the nighttime fog, unarmed, without his light, his skill at lights, his love for flames, those shining flames that burn inside the light, inside the mind, inside of life - those flames that cut all fog and melt all ice, and set aside all dark and heavy dread, and open up the day, the day and every other lighted path, and point a way - another way, a better way, for man to trace, for all to come; a way apart from where it is that fleets and ships and man, and all that's on, are sent at night by Mates that lie - sent by Mates, by Cap'n Isis Mates, to be a-wrecked and killed and drowned, at dawn -

"Aye, I'll need my light, for it's now the stroke of three, the nearly dawn, the one before the last before the mist that e'en my good light can't pierce - aye, we've need of light, for soon's the dawn - the mighty dawn, at which the fleet's to be on - on her way to nowhere that's e'er been known or seen before: to nowhere lights have been, or thoughts have dwelt, or men have lived: to where this Mate, this Cap'n Isis Mate, did chart our course, and set the helm, and said he'd done the bid of his Captain's plan; but as for me, I'd just as soon I'd seen old Cap'n Isis call the turn hisself - or seen him in any other thing he'd done, if he really be aboard, and be alive; and if he ain't - then neither man nor sea shall ever see him here, on board this ship, what's set for dawn: for if he ain't alive, how might he be on?"


    Three bells have rung their warning knell,

   Three bells, by night, amid a fog;

    One bell's for see and hear and touch - 

        see what is, and listen close, and reach

            the truth -

    A second bell for puttin' what is seen to 

        what is heard to what is touched -

        to put to one, so as to know, all

        separate things, each separate sense -

    And yet a third, a third, but one before the

        last, before the very last,

    A third bell's chime, a third truth's warning -

    A bell for learning from the one's that

        go before, from what is sensed and 

        what is known, and from it learning

        what it is - whatever it is - that's

        neither seen nor known direct, but yet

        exists, and is, and is the truth - 

        as surely true as all the rest -

        and built of tone and pitch, of

        rhythm of man's first bell, and

        all the tune that's of his second bell;

    A third bell has knelled, there waits

        alone the fourth - the last - that

        only rings for good or ill, and only

        when and if the other bells have struck,

        and rings according to how they're

        struck, those other three,

        those three that rang this night,

        this very night, to mark the spot

        where dawn comes on,

        on board, aboard this fleet, this

        Mighty Fleet, were all is on, you,

        and we and they - this Mighty 

        Fleet, to sail at dawn, with all the

        human race, all men alike, aboard

            and on.


"Aye, and three now it be," said he, that other mate of sorts, that Chaplain man, that one what's given to man, to all the men, in prayer, what's given him in written form to stay his nape - to quilt his nape and in the quilting hold it all in place, and keep it good and free from steel or sword, and keep his old scared self a-free from bloody death - that Chaplain man, that very one, that one what's given to his men his every prayer, and given well to stay his nape - that Chaplain man, a-tremblin' and a-sweatin' hard - sweatin' hard in here, in this the hold, the ship's fine hold, and sweatin' all the more the more the fog comes round, the more the ice sinks in about his eyes, and round his ears, and on his nape, that nape what clings to Cap'n Isis' Mate's own words, clings and quivers so it won't, if e'en all the other men must die, just so that it, twisted awful ugly nape, won't e'er to have to feel itself the sting of steel as it slithers past the night and through the dawn - slithers and twists about itself some more and then moves on - moves onward through another and still a blacker dawn, the kind that's never gone, the kind that sorts of Mates like Chaplain men wrap about their napes to put upon and cover well their souls at dawn, for to be well hidden when old grim death comes upon.

"Aye, 'tis three," said all the men, the ones below, these many sad and lowly men, all caught below the deck, all standin' and a-laughin' and some a-weepin' hard, and some a-sayin' words of friendship to their friends, and some a-prayin', and some a-gettin' ready with their things of blade and rope to do at dawn, when all four bells have ringed their due, to do at dawn what men afeard and without good fine thought, and good strong life, must always surely do when old and grim and grayish icy death stalks near behind - a-gettin' ready, with their blades and rope, a-gettin' full ready for when the bell rings four and all their fear breaks out in beads and all their flesh is drenched in sweat, and all their minds stop short, these men what's caught below, within the hold, beneath the deck, the topside deck, where oarsmen now and cabin-lighters see, and grains of truth are hid near dawn by ice, by Cap'n Isis type ice - these men what all forsaked their stand, their very place, on topside's grand and truthful deck and all so Cap'n Isis Mates might write upon the Chaplain's nape so they might read and contemplate and dream and scheme and dwell on how they might, by goin' out at dawn to no-man's sea of ice and doom, they might be gettin' for theirselves, and all for not much cost to them, they might be gettin', by goin' out at dawn, an upper hand on that old stealthy one, that old and gloomy death -

"Aye, and that's a true fine plan if e'er I'd heard a' one," they said, these men, a-laughin' out for the promised beatin' of old sad death, a-laughin' hard, for its nearly dawn, and sailors laugh at dawn, full nearly as equal much as the harness of their sweaty awful fear -

"Aye," say they, "we sweat! we stink o' fear! we reek o' sickness in our bellies and dryness 'bout our loins - but what o' this? for ain't our Cap'n Isis on aboard? and ain't his Mate a good and truthful Mate? and ain't we said our prayers and put ourselfs to humble ways below the deck?" -

"Aye," they say again, once more they say, they look about, and whisper low, and breathe dread breaths, and turn away their eyes from one another, each one from all the other men, and look upon the floor, and glance at all the planks, and try to pull their stare full hard back to theirselves and full away from there, that place, that point, that shadowed crack betwixt the door where somewhere back of it there may be good isis, Cap'n to 'em all, a standin' tall, but maybe not - betwixt that door where he their Captain be, and that other point, that floor, where they and all their souls have laid and spread their every hope and shot their every thought till now, at the ring o' three, their selves as men are dry and all their strength is sapped, and all their fears are drawn and tight and reaching out to touch all in a glance that sacred black and bloody looking crack where all their proof of Cap'n Isis and his ways do lie - all his ways do lie, yet none aboard can tell or see just what shall be when all is said and all is done and one last bell is rung and on and on we'll go, at dawn - all at dawn.


The Master of Arms, a man small of frame, smaller still in stature, smallest most of all in mind, in thought, in being and in deed - this Master of Arms, full well disposed to every final single word that comes from out his Captain's Mate's own voice, that slow shrill voice of dread and lying doom - this Master of Arms, as much of envy of his master Mate, his comrade one in crime, as much of envy as of his own sweet nurtured hate, that hate of all and every single each of man - this same one, this one what's got the charge, this one that's ta'en charge, full charge, of sword and knife and gun and club - this Master of wars and killing and plunderer of manhood and man and all those grains of truth of which he's got his hold fast on, all those grains that lie below the deck and cannot breathe or be apart from what there be on topside deck, where oars are held and light is hailed and where so near this dawn there's come a blight of ice to pass a spell, to stay awhile, while all's below and only one small lamp remains to clear away the fog, to melt by slow degrees the icy pain of dark - this Master of Arms, afeard of light as dusty heat of rain, afeard to venture forth at all until there comes such fog as there be that's filled with ice - this Master of all the means of bloody gory death and all the tools what pull apart a man, at first his loin, then in his self - this murderous piece of high treasonous villainy now, at last, steps forth from out his hole, his chambered armory, his hiding dwelling place of chains and 'daverous bits of men's broke bits of flesh and bone: he steppeth forth, for to do his due, for now it is his due is ready for the strike, full poised for kill, 'cause soon 'twill be enough of prayer and plenty much of false unsensible thoughts what Chaplain's words have got to set themselves as burning ramps, careening ramparts, twixt each and every man what's here below and that within him that is him and what is o' him and what is for him and is, all put within a word, his life - his very own dear precious life, which be below, as many of such as there be below, has just renounced by err in favor and in agreeance with the words on Chaplain's nape: soon 'twill be the time for Masters of Arms to do their due, and lo! this one what's here has steppeth now from out his den, to split apart the bones of men - to full well put a finish, a bloody cold and bluish hue, to all the limbs and all the selves of which he has so great a hate, and which he means to slaughter all at once, all - yes, even you - and all at dawn.


        Silent fingers, marrowless skeletous bones

        Slowly, silently, such fingers move,

        Infinitely patient, reaching now, at last,

        Grasping hold of cord, at last,

        One final cord, the final tie,

        The final yet to be ta'en hold of,

        A single piece of string,

        Bound and tied by slow degrees,

        Ever, ever so slowly; barely seen;

        Yet tied so well to all the rest,

        Tied so well to every other one,

        Made into a maze, a fiend's web,

        A net of strangle-holds,

        A circle of venom about the ship,

        Cast and forged and spun,

        Wrapped around the fleet,

        Set diametrically to a pattern,

        A figure and a symbol,

        A foggy, sightless sea of ice,

        Each string connected, on its end,

        To words and deeds of prayer,

        To prayers and wishes of fear,

        To the fear of being all alone,

        To the lone Captain of the helm,

        To Isis, Captain of all men's dreams,

        All men who dream of death -

        Each end of every string,

        Which runs through minds,

                and pierces thought,

        Fastened secretly securely to Isis,

        Captain of thoughtless fear,

        Master of mindless dreams,

        Fastened so on one of every end,

        Fused on every other end,

        Fused by every man who prayed,

        To each and every single

        Gun and club and knife

        That lay in silent transition

        From the Arsenal deep below

        To the loins and hearts and minds

        Of all the men who helped

        In forging bits of cord

        Into a net of no escape -

        Such a net that nothing

        In all the world but light

        Might pierce and rip apart -

        Such a net that men's hands forged

        By night, by fog, by ice,

        With prayer, to bind themselves,

        To murder their thoughts,

        To tie themselves to Captains

        That's ne'er been seen or known,

        And so to be tied down

        By and to that very thing 

        Those weapons from Masters' of Arms'


        That now are set

        To rip their lines from life

        To tear their manhood from man,

        To split men into corpses,

        All at the pull of a cord,

        All at the touch of a string,

        All at the ringing of bells,

        One, two and three to clear a path,

        And now the fourth, the last,

        To mark a bloody spot of time,

        Time for the announce of dawn -

        May Cap'n Isis help

        Each man who's on!                                


"Nay, it needs but one - what need it be for two, or three: I've one long hand, it wants but one," said he, that Mate, that old vision Isis' Mate, his only one, the one what dreamed him up, conjured up a dream, a Cap'n Isis dream, from out his head, what reeked as bowels and bled as waste; a dream, unlocked, unleashed, conceived in sin and scalding hate of all that be, a-spurtin' out his brain as quick as blood would from a serpent spew, blood a-fashioned 'bout a drop of juice - venomous, poisonous juice - and took into a goblet, from which to pour into his mouth - "Ay! this Mate he likes a-drinkin' from a silver chalice grand," had said the Steward, the Steward of the ship - and from his mouth, when naught could see, a-taken out again amid a fearsome cough and set into his palm and set betwixt the door and plank of floor and fashioned there to make a shade, a shadow dark, and cast into an image of a shadow of a good ol' Captain dear and left in view, in full and awful view, for all to see and all to know and all to fear and love and turn to where it was for aid and helping comfort mild; and now it sits, a-sendin' out its bile, an' blindin' men, all men below, who've chose to take a blindness prayer and stick it o'er their eyes; and now the blindness does its trick, and now the sight of Cap'n Isis image blinds below and runs a twin to icy fog above, a fog of deep and darkened night; and now the dawn is fast upon; and now the ice is at its peak; and now the light is at its ebb; and now the hand, the one long hand, the hand of Cap'n Isis' Mate, is reaching out to pick upon the final bit of string, and ring the final peel of bell, while all the while his other hand, shorter by a mote and stronger in its stead, is full upon his mouth, that Cap'n Isis bloody awful mouth, a-holding back the laughing screams of all the joy of all the deaths of all the men of all the world - a-holding back the howls of lustful longing for the sight to come, of men a-screeching loud in pain, and minds a-baying at the moon, and hands and bodies bilged in blood - a-holding back such maddening laugh lest someone learn too soon this Mate's, this Cap'n Isis' Mate's, life's plan of slaughter of the Fleet, yes, this very dawn, when all the world be on.


        The crack, as of a dawn, as of a bell, as of a bone.

"Four bells - aye, four bells it be," refrained the men, all men below,

and all in time, in perfect holy time, to up above the break of dawn, 

and far far down below the click of arsenal door's great seal,

and farthest yet below the sound of steel against the skull, 

the skull of he, that Steward man, that Steward of the ship,

a-comin' 'long with breakfast trays for Cap'n Isis, Isis' Mate, and lord of arms,

Master of murdering, plundering ways - comin' 'long with trays of bread, 

and laying now, silent still and shrouded all in red.


    On topside deck the battle raged,

    as fierce as all the 'plosions in the sun,

    and like those 'plosions, the end of which,

    the aim and goal of which, 

    is light,

    and all the moving things 

    go round till every thing is right -

    and such a battle raging now, aboard the fleet,

    the mighty fleet, 

    so close to dawn, on topside deck,

    with all below but two who fought -

    and this battle, every bit,

    was twixt the oarsman, tall and strong and proud,

    and he, Little Skippy, pure and fine and wise;

    and such a battle there'd ne'er been seen,

    not 'board this boat,

    nor any other fleet which nearly sank,

    a-guided on by Isis Mates to where the fog meets dawn -

    and not a man looked on,

    they being all a-kneelin' down below, 

    a-prayin' prayers while up above the fight for life had just begun -

    "My light, you know," Little Skippy said aloud, 

    "my light won't row a boat, but only show how boats are made,

    and how to row them right,

    and how they keep afloat,

    and what to do whene'er they start to sink," he said,

    a-lookin' straight and hard, convinced of all he had to say.

    "It takes a man like you to keep a ship afloat, a man whose arms are strong,

    whose will is stronger still -

    a man who knows what is to live,

    a man who loves to live his life;

    but he needs a light, he needs a friend who's learned a way with lights,

    he needs to listen close and study hard,

    and look about and see what's true and so,

    and what he knows is real,

    and what he sees is cause for what he knows:

    he needs to learn the separate, single rays of light,

    and then to put 'em all to one,

    and in such a flash to learn what must be done -"


    "Aye, what's true is true enough," began the oarsman now,

    a-pickin' bits of truth from what he'd heard,

    "Aye, ye got some mighty thoughts, for sure;

    but still you've told me naught just how it was

    that chains had bound me tight and cut into my flesh,

    yet now by his decree I'm here above, 

    a-breathin'  fresh and clean and standin' all a man and never more a beast -

    and all by word of Isis' mouth, a-told me by his Mate,

    who said he freed me for old Isis' peace o'mind, 

    and so to have someone to row, and keep this fleet afloat!" -

    "Those muscles in your arms, that life inside your will -

    look to them, my friend, they'll tell you why;

    for only you, of all aboard, have strength and love of sea enough

    to row this boat well past its bounds and off into uncharted parts,

    where no one thing that's made by man can e'er to stop what's set for dawn -

    ye were freed, man, to row this boat to where it might be sunk -"

    "Ha!  Ye think I'd ever be the one,

    the man to sink this boat I love - this very one I'm on!

    I'd sooner slit my throat or dash myself from yonder mast 

    than do my job so poor I'd stray from Isis' course,

    the one he's set us on!"

    "Aye, he's set the course, set it through his Mate,

    but only 'cause his Mate just said it was his Captain set this course -

    but have you seen it really set, and set by Captain Isis in his cabin down below?"

    "Well no, I never seen for sure just who it was what drew the chart,

    or set the helm this way - 

    in truth I never yet have seen a helm so funny set or put so tight it can't be turned -"

    "Could you turn it back away from here,

    could all your strength do so?"

    "Aye, I 'spose it might be done, but first I'd need to know a key,

    a way to turn it so to go against the weakest point -"

    "And that, good sir, is you; 

    for it was a mighty clever plot, but all depends on you to do a part,

    and carry man to ruin, upon your back:

    I think it needs but one good touch, and only you can touch it so,

    and then this helm will free itself and start to set a better course -

    it needs but one good shine of light,

    to cast a glance upon this helm,

    then take a-hold and set it straight."

    "Aye," at last had said this oarsman, many moments silent,

    thought inside his mind, pain upon 

    his brow, a mighty beat within

    his breast, a victory of his will

    against his love for Isis and his

    Mate who'd set him free -

    "Aye," said he, "I've got no choice,

    ye make your point too clear,

    I've naught now but wait to

    see your light, and do its bid.

    And maybe Isis doesn't live, and maybe

    his Mate's a wicked thing - I'll

    need more time, lad, to think o' this,

    but maybe I was a-freed

    for sinkin' all the fleet, and 

    maybe he were at fault for having

    had me chained so long, and

    ne'er a-freein' me till then -

    but he said I were a beast,

    and cruel and mean and

    fit for chains and though I'd

    never felt as such, I believed Isis

    to be a godly man, and

    took his word to heart, and bore

    my chains in peace - but

    lord it's a lonely thing to

    row a boat in chains, beneath

    the deck, away from wind or stars,

    a-goin' slow, and losin' ground,

    and stayin' close, so close,

    to where ye start from, and

    feelin' your body sweat away,

     your strength a-turnin' on

    yourself, your will a-cursin' at

    itself for wantin' so much

    more but knowin' ye'll ne'er

    see ought but chains and 

    sores upon your limbs - lad,

    you're a fine lad, and though

    I haven't yet forsook old Isis,

    still I'd rather die than live

    to see that light become your

    shame as my strength had

    forged my chains, so, aye, I'll

    listen to what ye say, and study

    well your light, and set about

    to do as though there weren't

    no Isis but just an evil Mate - 

    for lad, I've come to love ye 

    lad, as nearly well as 

    e'en me, and what with dawn

    a-comin' on, and not a soul 

    what knows for sure what lies

    ahead, and Cap'n Isis' Mate a-settin'

    all men's course, and now

    all four ship's bells are rung -

    with all o' this to back

    your words, and so near to dawn:

    you've won me over lad - you've won!"


    It were a battle fierce, full fierce

    as all the 'plosions in the sun - it were

    a thing bedazzled by the light, 

    that light against the drop o' darkening fog

    and deadening drift, that light o' Skippy's,

    little Skippy, Cabin Boy of this fleet's crew,

    Keeper of the Light, the one what

    guards man's mind: it were a battle won,

    amid a battle being lost, just

    the same as 'bove as o'er below, 

    and thought above the fear: a battle won,

    amid the crew's despair,

    amongst the icy chill of nightmare things,

    of fears and prayers and 

    Cap'n's Mates what open doors 

    to arms and set upon all men the

    hates of Masters' whims and Mates'

    own lusts: amid the scent of 

    slaughter 'proachin' near, where blood

    and bones become as one, as none

    remain alive - amid this portend

    black and hard, as though to

    part a path, through which all men

    may walk, or else to forge a trail,

    from which all light may flow:

    amid this reckless, ponderous

    doom approaching fast, there steps

    a giant man, a man of oars, his

    hands outstretched, his brow ablaze

    of light, a light reflected from

    outside but touched upon

    by that within: amid this deathful

    shame prepared by he, that old

    liar Mate of old dead Isis, there

    will not prepare a stop at 

    last to all this course, to each 

    and every course that ever took a

    man afar from home, adrift in

    churning seas, caught up

    in icy swells, and drowned in 

    silent bloody doom: the doom

    will end within itself this dawn;

    the helm of ship shall stop its

    course, to set unto another yet;

    the crew shall have a chance to

    save itself, to cease its Vesper

    prayers, and hear and say another

    brand of word - the ray of dawn 

    shall be the first of one, the

    last and end of other such, but

    not of man, as Isis plans had

    made to be the mode and sum

    of things, for now a man of

    strength and skill has reached the

    light of will and calm, and

    shining from within with truth and

    thought as beacons of his

    way, this Oarsman turns his back

    to Skippy's light, but ne'er again

    back upon it, while he makes his

    way to where the single ray of

    dawn shines down upon the door 

    of which the key has just been

    found to open up the hold and 

    let out to live all men, all

    minds, all free and bounteous

    thought - for now it's dawn,

    and you and me and all that be are on.


    "Grab hold men - grab hold my light,

    this light I've won and ta'en

    as mine own, this light of him,

    his lantern's guard, li'l Skippy,

    boy of seas, and man of man's

    own future be: grab on, my men,

    walk out this hold, this dark and 

    bloody hold below, where ne'er a

    light was knowed, and Isis Mate

    holds sway, and Master of Arms

    cuts deep and slays the light

    within your souls, and flays the

    flesh upon your bones, and floods

    this barge with swells o' blood,

    and blackens e'en this topside deck

    ere long this dawn is done: come

    out, good men, unto this ray of

    light, and leave behind thee senseless

    things of night - come out from

    Vesper dreams, go 'way from prayerful

    schemes, be men a-watchin' for

    a man, be minds of men a-thinkin'

    on the light - but quit this darkened

    hold, what holds your thoughts in

    fear, your selves in chains,

    your ways of thought in bad 

    beliefs - aye men, ye now must

    quit, as I, old Isis, old Cap'n Isis,

    e'en he hisself, just as I, before I too

    got hold o' Skippy's light - what

    say you men? do you reach? for

    lo! yon comes the sword upon the

    night, the hand of Mates' own plan;

    it's poised at all your throats, a-ready

    for its prey - what say you men?

    Reach out above, where Skippy's

    light is cast through mine own hands -

    what say you men? it's fully

    dawn: shall ye stall here? shall

    ye still be on? it's fully dawn.

"But it's hot to hold," spoke up the men, "it's hot, and we're afeard,

oh God, oh Cap'n dear, we're feared!  We dunna know what is to do - 

oh help us think, someone at hand - help be our guide, and guide our way -

someone fast at hand; but God we're goin' fast, a sword below, a piercing

light above: our eyes be poor, and set unto the dark, and not accustomed

to the light - yet God! our throats are not prepared for blood - oh please, 

good Oarsman, man of strength, please tell us what to do!"

    "Aye, I'll tell ye true, my men, that's 

    what I've come to do - I'll tell 

    ye what to do, but I cannot do it

    too, it's you must make the move,

    must reach, as I had reached, to

    him and all his light, to l'il Skippy,

    this little man, what's bigger inside

    than all the rest - 

    aye, men, he's tryin' to save ye now -

    reach up to him, take hold o' his

    light, don't be afeard, for I've an

    arm, an' I'll be here to help 

    pull up that man among ye

    what's got the courage for the

    reach! - for men, I'll not let

    this fleet be lost, nor you and

    me a-cut in two, not till

    all my breath's a-gone, and me

    a ghost within my grave - aye! men,

    reach hard, reach up here to 

    topside light! catch hold my arm -

    catch hold, good men,

    for Cap'n Isis' got a grip on ye

    as he had o' me - but shake him

    free, my men, shake him loose,

    and pull away from all your

    blood he's set to spill, and

    stand upright on topside's deck,

    and learn to look full face

    into the light and see yourself

    reflected as a man, an image of

    your own best self - shake you

    free of Isis things and reach above

    to save your life: reach above 

    to where I stand, and if you must

    grab hold my hand, and ne'er

    look back, nor be afeard, for

    men this light what Skippy holds,

    ye said it hurt your eyes, ye were

    not used to such as this, but

    lo! this same strange light

    has stopped the sword behind

    your heads, for men, that Mate

    is blind to such a light, and

    cannot see a whit, nor either

    can his man of Arms, who

    lives in armory's blackened room;

    they've closed them both their eyes

    long since on such a thing as light,

    and lo! now they cannot move,

    they're blinded by this light, this

    very one they'd cast aside and tried

    to dim for all mankind - they're

    blind, my men, they cease to pose

    a threat, but just till once again

    it's night - so men, ye cannot bide 

    to say below, else in another

    dawn you'll die for sure, and

    e'en me and Skippy's light

    aboard won't save ye then - so

    choose now men, you're free for

    that, choose to live o' topside's

    way, or die in chains below, for

    men it's dawn, and all of us

    are on, all men and light and

    dark are on, and in a moment

    more your chance will all be gone."


        The Mighty Fleet chose well at dawn -

            they will be on - they shall!

        The men reached up, their arms


        The eyes of man have opened wide,

        The minds of men have known

            a light,

        The topside deck is filled by life,

        The sun has cleaned a path -

        The gleaming ship has met the dawn,

        The grain, unchained, set free

        The Sacred Oath, the Light, speaks out -

            "All men are free,

             to think, to live, to be!"

        The Mighty Fleet sails on.