Song of the
Red Warboat

(notes by Philip Holberton)


Published in Rewards and Fairies (1910) with The Conversion of St. Wilfrid”. The poem is closely linked to the story, in which ‘My Red War-Boat’ rescues Meon, Wilfrid and Eddi from the Bishop’s islet. (p. 239 line 17)

Notes on the Text

War-Boat Like the Danes and Norwegians who came after them, the Saxons were fighting sea-rovers from what is now northern Gernamy, who had raided and pillaged the coasts of England in their long-ships before settling as farmers and fishermen.

[Verse 1]

It’s ebb the tide is going out, against the swell, making the waves
steeper and more dangerous.

The shoals are a mile of white the waves are breaking for a mile offshore

[Verse 2]

The Gods know they are forsaken See p. 235 line 23, where Meon says: ‘I wonder what Wotan will say to me. He must know I don’t believe in him. Wotan (alternative spellings ‘Woden’ or ‘Odin’) was the chief of the Saxon gods.

[Verse 4]

Thor’s Own Hammer Cracking the dark a flash of lightning. Thor was the Saxon god of thunder and lightning; see Verse 5 line 1 ‘Thor of the Thunder’.

[Verse 7]

mead an intoxicating drink made from fermented honey

two-reef sailing the storm has eased and they can stop rowing and set the sail, but with two sections tied (reefed) up to reduce the area exposed to the wind.


© Philip Holberton 2011 All rights reserved