Notes on the Flying Dutchman and the St. Brier

A Union Jack is the same as America’s “Star Spangled Banner.” It is the poetic word for Britain’s flag.

A Man of War was a British fighting vessel.

The point of the first part of this poem is to juxtapose the Brier with the Dutchman. It simultaneously tells the story of both ships, before their clash at the end of the story.

It is a “Phantom” ship. I wanted to tease the reader. Maybe the Brier is fighting a specter. Maybe they are fighting real pirates. With my poems about Fairyland, I thought it was appropriate.

It was a happy little thought when finishing this poem, at the end, that Stew would set the Brier free from the Dutchman’s masts. It was a surprise, and happily, I chased that song. Because Stew had fallen into the Lagoon, and to think that the Dutchman, if it cared anything about its crew, might have been the ship spared.

A form of pirate torture was to string a man with rope, and pull them from bow to stern underneath the ship. The barnacles at the bottom of the ship would tear them apart.

“Lemon Stew” refers to a soup made of lemons that the British would feed their people so they would not get scurvy.

Fats were used as balms in those times. There were reports of Cortez using human fat to balm his men’s wounds. The thought of Whale Blubber was a good poetic choice, and because it is the St. Brier, they would have an ethical way to balm people. They’re not pirates, like Cortez.

The recurring line “Albion’s Reefs” was one I had made last minute. I saw it was a good complex metaphor.

The “VOC” was the Dutch East India Trading Company. They were famous for their piracy. They were the British East India Trading Company’s largest competition on the high seas. The Dutchman—being a possibly phantom vessel—had to be flying VOC flags, for the ambiguous reference to the state sanctioned piracy.

“Cull” here means to depopulate and populate at the same time. It is a cantonym. I had originally written it “Caul”, but realized that wasn’t the word I wanted, so I consulted my work “Young Shadows” to see how it was used in there. It was spelled “Cull”.

The inspiration to this poem was Pirates of the Caribbean and Master and Commander. Coincidentally, both of these stories were played in close proximity to each other, so I had been immersed in naval warfare for a period in my life. And, I found the scenes where the ships would battle in the high seas quite educational for this imagery.

I had worked Tree Trimming, so the idea for this was natural. Though, I had never seen trees get entangled in one another, I imagine that two ships would get their masts tangled quite easily in battle, and that the image of Stew—who I had decided to make the hero of this poem—saving the day by freeing the mainsail of the Brier from the Dutchman.

If the mast had not been cut, the Brier would have been sucked down into the abyss with the Dutchman.

I don’t believe Judges were ever on sailing vessels; but, I had written the poem from various sources pulled from memory. I decided to put a Judge on the ship for this reason, to represent England’s laws, that the Pirates would not be sentenced without a fair trial.

And of course Stew is the one who set St. Brier free, so the queen awarded him a medal and knighted him. I don’t know if such a thing would happen, but I decided to include it, since the Dutchman was a famous ship. I suppose it would be in this case appropriate.

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