The Empire’s Compass
The silent pallid submissive rocks in the slipstream
of inexorable steam driven change,
but even in her death glide she commands regal respect;
distant maritime mourners genuflect as the tempest of Trafalgar
is now coaxed meekly to Rotherhithe and sleep
by a pug representative of progress.
Does the sun set on the chapter completed
or rise on a new tome to be experienced?
Critics differ in analysis of east and west
and the moon palely antagonises them
but Turner’s direction follows the Temeraire,
his suns detonate in glorious coloured cacophony
and, either way, the moody message is delivered.
Her sails will not blow out the chests of its masts
and the decks are bereft of the midshipmen’s toil;
already a ghost, the artist enquires:
Empire, is your beacon fading as you face uncharted courses?
And we ask: did Turner pour oil on to troubled canvas?