This epic sea poem is published in Book 2 of the Wanderings and Sojourns series “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas” and posted here in serial form to celebrate the release of that book. A new episode of this saga, each comprising 10 verses, will be posted here each day for 12 days. The book is available at the link below and will soon also be available from Amazon and all e-book formats as well as being available to order from almost every bookshop in the world.
Angus Donald and the Gale
Part FIVE (verses 41 – 50)
Young Angus told Old Murdoch of the work that lay ahead;
The problems now with which they had to deal.
Was then when Murdoch said the younger man looked all but dead
And told him that he’d better take the wheel.
“If you’re your father’s son then you can steer this boat all right
“No matter that it be a raging gale.
“You have no strength left lad; though you’ve the heart, you’ve no more fight.
“I’ll go up for’ard now and help them live to tell this tale.
And so young Angus stood to helm while Murdoch went on deck
And worked toward the bow through wind and spray
The first time he had ever worn a life vest round his neck
Spoke full the fear he’d not known ‘till that day.
He’d trusted Angus this far so would let him choose the wave
On which to drive up to that jagged wall.
For Murdoch had to be there just in case he had to save
His son should things go badly when he made that final fall.
Through driving rain young Angus strained to see the craggy height
Where now the mother braced against the storm.
He saw young Murdoch check the rope about her waist was tight,
Her frailty dwarfed by his gigantic form.
Young Murdoch gave the signal they were ready then to go;
Young Angus watched the waves to pick the one
Would raise them up to meet the falling mother from below
Where Murdoch would take over from the efforts of his son.
The big one came; he throttled hard and shouted out his plan
Above the wail of wind and crash of sea,
And lunged into that ancient fray of ocean versus man
Surviving where they knew they shouldn’t be.
The waves were on his quarter so he had to angle high
Allowing for the leeway they would give.
He knew they’d be no second chance, the mother there would die
If he misjudged the desperate run to try to let her live
He felt the big wave lift them up with unrelenting force.
He revved the engine more to keep control
And took his mark along that cliff by which to hold his course
To guide them past each jagged rock and shoal.
He daren’t look up to watch the scene unfolding on the wall,
He had to focus then upon the waves.
And trust the elder Murdoch to control the mother’s fall
As Murdoch trusted him to keep them safely from their graves.
He rode so close beneath that cliff upon the crashing sea
It seemed there’d be no chance they’d stay alive.
But holding ‘till the final second underneath that lee
Was needed for the mother to survive.
He felt the wave begin to drop and spun the heavy wheel
And backed down hard to get her going astern.
The engine roared, the bow swung clear and rocks scraped hard her keel
As out he steered. There was no time the mother’s fate to learn.
When frantically he cleared the rocks and reached the sound at last
He spared a fearful glance upon the deck
To see a grim-faced Murdoch clinging tight about the mast,
The mother clinging tight about his neck.
He turned the wheel and faced the seas to ease the way she rolled
So Murdoch then could make it to the stern.
The children and the mother all were soaked and freezing cold,
Their spirits though were warmed as they enjoyed her safe return.
“Four down and two to go.” Young Angus forced a smile, and tried
To cheer the elder captain in his doubt.
“That rope is getting shorter,” tersely Murdoch then replied.
“Be too short when my son’s turn comes about.”
And Angus saw the truth within the words old Murdoch said,
For every person saved they’d cut the rope.
Without enough to reach the boat young Murdoch would be dead
To save the father now meant that for him there was no hope.
The elder sighed, his shoulders sagged, his brow was furrowed deep.
“He’s got no choice, regardless of the cost.
“That’s how I raised him. Murdoch, see? There’s rules we have to keep:
“To do what’s right no matter what is lost.
“That’s how my father raised me too, and his dad did as well,
“When honour of the clan is what’s at stake,
“If that means end it early with a noble tale to tell
“Then be it so, ’cos that’s the choice a Murdoch has to make.”
Young Angus’ heart was pounding hard, his mind was running fast.
His friend had risked his life to save his own.
There’s no way they could let this day become young Murdoch’s last;
To die beneath the storm tossed sea alone.
He held the old man with his eyes, and clenched his stubborn jaw.
“Then he must spend the night up on those rocks.
“He has the strength of three grown men; tenacity of four.
“There’s reason why you wife bore you no man-child, but an ox!”