Monday, October 24, 2011
I have often heard the good wish expressed, "God bless and Godspeed". Apparently the latter expression comes from the old English, "spede". It refers to having good success on a voyage or journey, initially a shipping term.
Think of the dynamic of the voyage at sea. Adequate supplies below decks. Rigid maintenance of all canvas, cables and tackle. Caulking and re-caulking. Thorough study of navigation maps. Thorough training in the tools of navigation and weather. Clear chain of command. Water supply rationed between stops. Manifest of payload checked and double-checked. Shifts on board assigned to crews. Pay and trouble-pay noted. Whistle signals and audible commands all memorized. The language of the flags. Optimal use of the tide heading from the estuary. Pilot commissioned for harbour and river negotiation. The open sea...
Crew members would remember the Captain's prayer before launch and the serious look to skies, clouds and horizon. Godspeed!
In spite of all these prudent measures and preparation, there was still so much of the unanticipated lying ahead. The stories of other near disasters were known. The missing names this trip. The brave and braced faces of the wives waving from dock of home port. Perhaps hostile ships of war. Perhaps a wringing-wet, bucking, wretching rounding of the Horn.
The sky. The elements. The capricious waves. The reeling accompaniment of gulls. The terror of the albatross appearing. The odds of a Jonah on board. The spume of the steaming, moaning humpback. How John Masefield could write of all these spectres in his poems! Or Melville or Conrad in the narrative.
Such is life. Godspeed.
13Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
15For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.