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)
Peter Bellamy’s rendition is to be found here.
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 Germany, who had raided and pillaged the coasts of England in their long-ships before settling as farmers and fishermen.
smooth: calm water
lop: sea in which the waves are short and lumpy (Wordsworth edition)
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
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.
meet her: check the swing of a turning vessel. [OED]
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’.
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