The Raft-Builders

November 11, 2008 | 9 comments

By Lord Dunsany:

All we who write put me in mind of sailors hastily making rafts upon
doomed ships.

When we break up under the heavy years and go down into eternity
with all that is ours our thoughts like small lost rafts float on awhile
upon Oblivion’s sea. They will not carry much over those tides, our
names and a phrase or two and little else.

They that write as a trade to please the whim of the day, they are like
sailors that work at the rafts only to warm their hands and to distract
their thoughts from their certain doom; their rafts go all to pieces
before the ship breaks up.

See now Oblivion shimmering all around us, its very tranquility deadlier
than tempest. How little all our keels have troubled it. Time in its deeps
swims like a monstrous whale; and, like a whale, feeds on the littlest
things–small tunes and little unskilled songs of the olden, golden
evenings–and anon turneth whale-like to overthrow whole ships.

See now the wreckage of Babylon floating idly, and something there
that once was Nineveh; already their kings and queens are in the
deeps among the weedy masses of old centuries that hide the sodden
bulk of sunken Tyre and make a darkness round Persepolis.

For the rest I dimly see the forms of foundered ships on the sea-floor
strewn with crowns.

Our ships were all unseaworthy from the first.

There goes the raft that Homer made for Helen.

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9 Responses to The Raft-Builders

  1. Adam Greenwood on November 11, 2008 at 11:51 am

    I forgot to add that, by gracious decree, Thems As Must Be Obeyed have permitted me to state that unlike most comment threads here at Times and Seasons–wherein are found the rainbow of mutual respect and the unicorn of commenter equality–this comment thread shall see me use my editorial powers in a dark tyranny the likes of which have not been seen since Mrs. Jackle’s homeroom or the lash of the Czars. This includes responding to your comment with a bracketed editorial insertion. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

  2. Frank McIntyre on November 11, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    I don\’t know which is better, your quoted poem or your first comment.

  3. Adam Greenwood on November 11, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    You are too kind, sir. Its not actually a poem, its just an extremely short essay.

  4. Patricia Karamesines on November 11, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

    Okay, I abandoned hope. Now what happens?

    [Ed. - Our cavalcade of horrors is currently on hold. Would you mind taking a raincheck?]

  5. Nate W. on November 12, 2008 at 1:57 am

    No cavalcade of horrors? What kind of a dark tyranny is this? I was promised heads on pikes and mass commenter pogroms! Who do I talk to to get my money back?

    [Ed.--Wait in a long line outside in the cold and you'll get your money back. In the form of ill-fitting shoes.]

  6. Patricia Karamesines on November 12, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Sooo typical of the ‘nacle. Someone throws down a gauntlet, you stoop to retrieve it, but when you straighten up to meet the challenger’s eye, it’s just you and the bracketed crickets.

    Rather like my oral exams. Big build-up. Testimonies of fear. Horror stories. “You won’t be able to keep anything down as the day approaches,” they said. “You’ll cry for weeks afterwards,” they said.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my orals. I thought they weren’t half long enough.

    There was some evidence that the profs involved did not fare so well. Later, Eugene England, a member of the exam committee, pulled me into his office, a cave made of books. He said that since the orals, he’d been worrying about me. He feared that I, like Emily Dickinson, had an “illicit attraction to death.” The man went on and on. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

    I regret he forced me to be rude. I shouted, “It’s just a metaphor!”

    [Points to me for my token, obscure, yet true reference to Eugene England.]

  7. Adam Greenwood on November 21, 2008 at 9:35 am

    You’ve made the classical logical error of affirming the consequent, PK.

  8. Jim F on November 24, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Excellent, PK!

  9. Patricia Karamesines on November 24, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    I made the classical logical error of affirming the consequent if and only if I was being logical.

    I wasn’t being logical.

    Therefore Consequently, I didn’t make the classical logical error of affirming the consequent.


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