convergences Screen 30 | Muse

DAVID SAMWELL:
        Hitherto we had seen none
                       of their young women
though we had given the men to understand
   how agreeable their company
                       would be to us,
       and how profitable to themselves,
   in consequence of which they brought
two or three girls to the ships
        and though some of them
                  had no bad faces, yet
as they were exceedingly dirty,
             their persons at first sight
        were not very inviting; however,
our young gentlemen
             were not to be discouraged
        by such an obstacle as this,
which they found was to be removed
    with soap and warm water.
                     This they called
the Ceremony of Purification
    and were themselves the officiators at it.
And it must be mentioned to their praise
              that they performed it
with piety and devotion,
                   taking as much pleasure
    in cleaning a naked young woman
         from all impurities in a tub
as a young confessor would
    to absolve a beautiful virgin
             who was about to sacrifice
that nature to himself. This ceremony
    appeared very strange to the girls, who,
        in order to render themselves
    agreeable to us, had taken pains
              to daub their hair and faces
        well with red ochre which,
to their great astonishment,
                     we took great pains
to wash off. Their fathers,
        who generally accompanied them,
made the bargain and received the price,
    which was commonly a pewter plate
             well scoured, for one night.
When they found this was a profitable trade
    they brought more young women, who,
        in compliance
    with our preposterous humour,
        spared themselves the trouble
of laying on their paint, and us
        of washing it off again. And thus,
by falling in with our ridiculous notions,
            they found a means at last
    to disburden our young gentry
               of their kitchen furniture,
many of us, after leaving this harbour,
        not being able to muster a plate
            to eat our salt beef from.
David Samwell writes a poem in the rigorous metrics of Welsh verse, about the girl he left in Liverpool, pregnant and penniless, almost two years ago. As Surgeon's Mate he must inspect the crew for disease before they go ashore. Samwell staggers under the enormity of events that include him here. His journal shows a delicate sense of tragedy and of comedy too. He is twenty-two years old. When he chooses a young woman he makes certain she has been with none of his shipmates.

Spanish artist: young Nootka woman.

Spanish artist:
young Nootka woman.


Do not ask me to define poetry. Do not ask me to defend my words. I live. I experience. I reflect. Sometimes I get down to business and write my poems. I am only one centre of consciousness, one point around which the words swirl and accumulate. But my wonder is the glimmer and glimpse of other centres, their particular circumstances, and their words.

fronticepiece

Fronticepiece.


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