An Abortive Odyssey

by Paul Jump

I set out to chart the great seas of the world,
Wide-eyed, determined and true.
Vast, pristine sails of pure hope I unfurled;
A streamer of dreams blithely flew.

I gazed across serene, moon-silver-splashed sea,
From expectancy’s proud, lofty prow,
And mused on the blessed isles promised to me,
Towards which warm Zephyr did blow.

Mindless was I of the tales that are told
Of Grief’s timeless power to wreck
The mightiest ship and the captain most bold:
Black rocks that splinter life’s deck.

I navigated by the stars’ jewelled array;
Seductive, Andromeda danced,
’Til Aurora oped the rose vault of new day
And Phoebus’ sun-steeds out-pranced.

But as they did Jove saw my sails to be stained
With Hubris’ bull-baiting hue
And violent Boreas, promptly unchained,
Towards Nemesis cruelly blew.

Upon my head drummed all the tears Jove has wrung
From man’s past, innumerable ages.
And, at my ship, tridents of lightning he flung
And spat his tempestuous rages.

My sails were tattered, my mast was quite shattered,
My rudder was sheared by the stress;
My keel was pummelled and pounded and battered:
My vessel lurched, breached and aimless.

It listed and moaned, raised its prow to the sky
As it sank beneath Neptune’s black bile
For a buoyant plank some passing nymph helped me vie,
And I kicked for a proximate isle.

At long last I gained its shore, caked in distress,
And lay down and sank into sleep,
But for this Odysseus no fair, young princess
Was there when I woke from the deep.

Nausicaa dwells not in this obscure land,
Nor Circe, nor sweet Calypso.
Alone was I, beached on the fine, golden sand,
Nausea my frothing foe.

Saved was I from the waves’ mountainous strife:
Cool lotus my wounds did anoint,
Yet I have no taste for a quiet, solitary life
On this smooth isle, all bereft of point.

Trees and hemp grow here: a raft I could fashion:
All I need, rich nature yields;
Away I could sail again: indulge my passion
To seek out Elysian Fields.

For a sail I’d mount what shredded rags I have left
And, naked, I’d combat the surge.
Ah, Compensate me must the Fates, for their theft
Of the ship of my youth: all their guilt they must purge.

It serves none of us chance to perversely deny:
To brood on Jove’s past cruelty –
But what if he should my pale shamelessness spy
And end for good my Odyssey?

I’m sick of the land, yet I’m scared of the sea:
It’s safer to stay and spin dreams,
As I bathe in the lone lake of tranquility
Flooded with Phoebe’s chaste streams.

I dream of a singing muse, fair as a dove,
In a bark of pure mother-of-pearl,
Sailing to me, all enraptured with love,
Swooning, all flushed, like a girl.

Blessed she’d render this soul-thirsting isle;
She’d lead me to Clio ’s bright spring
And from it she’d fill my dry pen with a smile
And with it, to heaven, she’d wing.

She’d spell out my name in bold , flourishing strokes
Upon its azure-shining dome,
Like Keats, whose sad, water-writ name ever soaks
Into man’s most cherished tome.

Then back to my side would she lark-blithely glide
And conjure a cabin of logs,
That e’er we might, by that poetic fount bide,
Safe from Jove’s bloodthirsty dogs.

Yet on the wide main not a speck can be seen
Upon which such hopes I could build:
I just haunt the shore, glazed by a wet, salty sheen
My life ebbing, all unfulfilled.

© 2006 by Paul Jump


About the Author

Paul Jump is a freelance writer and journalist living in London. Contact him at



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