The ship is sinking, but no one can tell the captain,
He has left the bridge and locked himself in his cabin.

The first mate writes letters patching up family wars,
The bosun mumbles, the purser recounts cricket scores.

The crew tie flags to lifebuoys and chuck them into the waves.
The flags bear messages such as, God is love, and, He saves.

The fish, singly and in pairs, come up to the surface,
Read and form into circles on the wake’s scarf of lace.

Why do men ever sign up for long sea voyages—
Is not God in small houses and picture-book pages?

I am by nature a landsman, a lover of quiet streams;
Somehow or other sea and ships got woven into my dreams.

Now this ship is sinking, and, strangely, it seems no disaster.
Men also die in houses—why not at sea with the Master?


This seems to be a poem about Francis’ own feelings and experience. There were periods during his long sojourn with Baba when not a great deal dramatic seemed to be happening. Baba locked away in seclusion, Eruch or Mani writing correspondence, Pendu checking the cricket scores for Baba. Messages sent out but few having admittance to the ship. No end seems in view. But of course his trust is undimmed. There is no question of abandoning ship. Why not go down with it if it is sinking. This at least seems a likely reading of the poem to me, slightly rueful and humorous. The ship doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere even though some are dancing in its wake. Francis is not making moan, his happiness shines through in the fanciful touches in the poem. Possibly it was written to make Baba smile. 

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