“Dearly Belovèd, we are gathered here…”
I never called it “Dearly Belovèd”;
I never called it anything but gear;
But if I thought at all, he’d hear
And leap with spirit others covet.
As in the fairy tale the magic horse will heed
“Magnificent One, go where I am going,”
He’d caper on the waves: I’d row without rowing.
Or turning in the wind without the need
For strain, our course was understood;
I’d ride into the surf on scull and steed:
You whose skull and bones are made of wood.
Yes, primed when dreadnoughts gathered in the ranks,
Against massed hulls where nimbleness assists,
You spurred yourself to victory in the lists,
And now one winded serf is all your thanks.
NOTES for Students of English
“Magnificent One, Go where I am going” – A reference to a line in the 1947 movie “La Belle et La Bête” (Beauty and the Beast) by French director Jean Cocteau. The Beast (an enchanted prince) owns a white horse named “Magnifique” (Magnificent) who will carry the rider home or to the Beast’s castle if the rider whispers in the horse’s ear: “Va où je vais, Le Magnifique, va, va, va!” (“Go where I am going, O Magnificent One, go, go go!”)
“In the lists” – This does not mean “included in a list of names,” but rather “participating in a contest or competition.” “Lists” is derived from a medieval term for the barriers enclosing a field where knightly combat tournaments were held. A famous instance of its use is in “Sonnet to a Cat” (1818) by English poet John Keats:
Thy tail’s tip is nick’d off — and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,
Still is that fur as soft as when the lists
In youth thou enter’dst on glass bottled wall.