Ships

Paul Kavanagh

Part 1

There will be melees, brouhahas; no longer will there be the miasma of ennui. There will be affable moments, though ephemeral. It is the bizarre that I am going to relate to you my audience. I beg you that you allow me to travel to the unknown. Hesiod said, go to sea if you must, but only from mid-June to September—and even then you will be a fool. Everybody knows that one should not disagree with a man of the grape! But to the sea me must go, for it is in that theater that man truly illuminates his true merit. But what merit has man? We all know men are fools! They are sniveling lapdogs to folly. And they set sail upon the grand undulation willy-nilly; only to end up upon the sial carrion cussing Toscanelli and Zacuto, but still man does not glean from the putrid on the sands, for he still follows Da Gama around the globe. So I plead with you. I order you. You must follow my trajectory…see De Messina’s Crucifixion. You must be cognizant only of the objects that I paint for you! Concentrate upon the criminals and only the criminals… do not let De Messina’s tricky gull the trajectory of the eye on to the Christ. Be obstinate! Look at the way they hang, their bodies elongated, contorted, and in throes of excruciating pain. De Messina has captured moribundity. It is in the final screams of the epiphany that man is no longer mortal, for even on the cross moments before death closes the eyes there is still the belief in immortality, which De Messina has depicted! With deep contemplation De Messina’s emaciated criminals will metamorphose before our eyes into colossal masts with heaving sails and you will know that what I have achieved is a carrack. Its old timbers groaning and creaking will make the verisimilitude of this wonderful carrack tangible for us. It is more real for me than the engravings of Pieter Breughel. Though they are exquisite, they do not catch the wind within their sails. The hull was deep and round, with forecastle, with a framework for awing, the stern castle was high with a poop deck supported on wooden pillars. A full-rigged ship, it was. A good ship! A castle upon the sea! This worthy ship is in a state of levitation and this causes me great distress. I must have equanimity! I am no longer of the corporeal world! It is a perennial fear that drives me on to create; it is the fear of horror vacui. To remedy this situation I will force myself to create an ocean. With my forefinger I draw three undulating lines to illustrate my sea. It is now more than a painted ship upon a painted sea. Now my ship sits buoyantly upon the tranquil azure. Do you see it?

De Silva, that was his name. It had to be. It could be no other. And so it was. A eupeptic fellow he was! De Silva...that was the name that set sail a thousand and one souls upon a sea of desolation. De Silva had the grace of Paris entwined with the prowess of Hercules and the acumen of Odysseus. He did and I told everybody. He was gentle at times. He was and I told everybody. He could be stern and mean when he had no other path to journey. He was and I told everybody why this was so. De Silva had huge cathedral arms and marble pillars that held him imperiously. He did and I told everybody. Once I compared him to mighty Poseidon. The horse was he! The horse of the undulation! I shouldn’t have, but I did and I told everybody. As I scrubbed the deck he passed me whistling mellifluous. It was as though the sirens were serenading me. It was and I told everybody around me of the wonder that emanated from him. He was the finest Captain a ship could have. He was and I told everybody. Copper orb, fed with prays and martyrs, burning sulphur and phosphorus with magnesium paroxysms igniting iridescent dreams of bronze iron and the alchemist’s gold zinc ephemeral explosions and implosions a dense blackness of scorched bones and flesh. The morning star aimless like Anthony in the desert wanders through the wilderness expelling demons, imps, and lunatics. The appearance and disappearance into the simulacrum of death causes only disequilibrium. All is a charade. Mendacity! Lies! Lies! Lies! From words, sounds, enumerations, emits the alchemist will finally produce gold. The world will one day stop spinning and the sky will spit like roasted beef upon the pyre. The scream of death from Jesus’ lips can be heard entwined with the playing of Pan. And one day the rock will roll over Sisyphus and flatten him! I quote Voltaire. An English, as a free man, goes to heaven by whatever route he likes. It was off Cape Verde Islands that De Silva winked solicitously at me. He did and I told everybody. The orb was a golden coin and the sea a silk blanket. De Silva like father Moses stood upon the quarterdeck and looked the leviathan in the eye. And I told all that we would be safe in his hands. His huge smile illuminates me and bathes me in tranquility. If it weren’t for Captain De Silva I would have cried for home. But De Silva turned away from me. The undulation was as inebriated and feral as a drunken Irish mick. And somebody had hidden the moon and the stars. And the wind was the death cry of Christ going through the flagellation, the crown of thorns, the nailing of hands and feet and the asphyxiation on the cross. I gripped hold of the mast as though it was my crucifix and my salvation for each lightning strike proclaimed the Day of Judgment. I am a sinner, I confessed loudly to the God of the undulation. He understands. I didn’t stand a chance. He concurs with everything that I say. He doesn’t have to see the whites of my eyes to know that what I speak is nothing but veracity. I was as helpless as a ship on a feral undulation buoyant only through the grace of God.

Enough of these damn tales. O, god I wish somebody would take away this stained glass of Saint Michael away from my eyes. Saint Michael with his sword of flames! All that I can see is kaleidoscopic, iridescent angels and demons locked in heated battle.

* * *

The cabbage is a strange fruit, a progeny of the European Brassica Oleracea. It has neither the splendid color of the strawberry nor the exuberant taste of the peach. It is a head that has not the character of the pear or the complexion of a freshly plucked apple. It is an insipid, mundane dull green fruit. For Juvenal the cabbage was the nadir for his futile sycophants! Even in the hands of Sir Politic, it is nothing more than humdrum.1 No, Adonis hid behind a cabbage and the Israelites did not long for the cabbage as they longed for the watery sweet melon. In the mid-day sun the cabbage turns rapidly to putrid. One can never become accustomed to the reek of the decomposing cabbage like they can with the sweet-smelling pineapple. Its veiny skin peels back, until it reveals its heart. And the heart is cold and worthless. A heart without feeling. The heart is a strange fruit, a progeny of the European imagination. It has neither the splendid color of the turnip or the exuberant taste of the spud. If fleshly plucked its complexion fades with its beat. It is an insipid, dull red fruit. In the mid-day sun the heart turns rapidly to putrid. One never becomes accustomed to the reek of the decomposing heart. Its veiny skin peels back, until it reveals its cabbage. And the cabbage is cold and worthless. A cabbage without feeling.

* * *

That’s what he was. A cabbage without feeling. He was thrown overboard. He was a sniveling sycophant! He serenaded De Silva with his arsehole! A fine flute it became under the moon and stars! Bloody mellifluous! Shitsmeared De Silva won’t be able to sleep at night now his flunkey’s gone overboard! Swept off his feet he was. Light as a feather he was! Never had a bad word for anybody! Did a wonderful Queen Liz at Christmas! He was a fine singer! More like a stabbing board! That sea that swallows seaman them seamen that swallow semen. Hope the fishes devour him swiftly. May the devil be poked in the eye! God have mercy upon his soul!

* * *

De Silva didn’t believe in death; he didn’t believe in life either—why would he? He was in a state of perpetual limbo; tossed like the cabin boy upon the wild undulations of time. De Silva was a demagogue of the finest order! He was a paragon! De Silva was Captain for he made manifest that man was either to be pampered or annihilated; and it was the latter that he was most steadfast about. The marineros survived in a miasma of fear for they had no aegis, being of the lowest order and so the noose was forever in their panorama; whereas the grumetes existed in hatred and then there were the officials who thrived on envy. De Silva discerned all. The obsequious marineros were plying for protection through fear and De Silva encouraged the marineros to the abhorrence of the grumetes whom existed precariously juxtaposed between the marineros and officials. And so if a beating was in order, De Silva handed the whip to the grumetes, knowing that they would perform the deed with great passion. He would pick two of the grumetes to perform the duty, with the knowledge that all the spleen that would be felt would be directed towards the elevated two. The officials were sycophants, perpetually in the labyrinth of a plot to overthrow the Captaincy of De Silva. De Silva engaged the marineros to spy upon the officials who themselves spied upon the grumetes and nobody spied upon the marineros for they were either inebriated or asleep.

De Silva knew that the mutiny would not materialize for the marineros needed De Silva, as did the grumetes. He even determined with great sagacity that the officials would not revolt for they enjoyed their privileged consignment within the social structure of the Pajaro Puerco. Though none of these groups were deemed popolo grasso. Thus De Silva did not care if the marineros, the grumetes, and the officials suffered through his obesity and flatulence. The odor that was emanated from this man was tangible like that of the Thames, a river of excrement. O what a sight on a busy Saturday night a thousand and one dirty arses. He smelt of a thousand and one putrid decomposing cabbages infested with the gnawing worm of the Lord! After every bowel movement the worms that were defecated were collected and located within a jar to be placed upon the bookcase within De Silva’s cabin. Juxtaposed between the Bible and The Satyricon. In this world of magic nothing was given away easily. De Silva was flagrant in his displays of shameful and opprobrious exhibitions. These displays were only matched by the diseases that flourished upon his carriage. From one night to the next, warts, fully grown, proliferated about him like mushrooms in a dank wood. These cellular arrangements were complex and amazing structures architecturally. Unlike the wart upon a common man, the warts upon De Silva were perennial in life. The elevated hard skin of the verruca vulgaris was a disappointment for it was benign. But the periungual was slightly pleasing for it formed around De Silva’s fingernails, toenails, and extended under the nail, causing him severe pain. Once the pain was so appalling he threatened to cut the buggers off, meaning his fingers and toes! Tinea Versicolor was iridescent upon his integument. Impetigo painted pretty shapes upon De Silva and the scars left by Ecthyma gave this canvas topography. But it was the Butterfly rash that substantiated this pulchritudinous masterpiece. Through his hemorrhoids De Silva could produce a fart as easily as shaking a hand in welcome or deceiving a silly bugger out of his earnings. He profaned the instance he exhaled to converse and his fart enunciated the lord’s name backwards with amazing eloquence. If hell had not already Malacoda who could produce a trumpeting manifestation from his anus at the drop of a hat De Silva would surely have fit the bill. De Silva had the gob of Capaneus. There was no God, only wine, more wine and food, an abundance of food. It is true to say he was a terrible glutton and he was forever confabulating with his mouth cramped with ham, peaches, and cream. There were no hors d’oeuvres, soup, main courses, and puddings—it was all one sitting. His table was built up like the tower of Babel. No fly or parasite was safe; they went down the hole too. He was a factotum of the dung heap. He sprayed food like a priest with holy water far and wide most benevolently, most officiously. He was as amorous as a dog with two large dripping penises. And with the coquetry of a two-penny whore he would flash his anchor for all and sundry. This flagrancy was performed for both king and beggar! He was a philanthropist of the finest order! De Silva sang ribald songs and was in perpetual motion down below through the lice that proliferated in the subterranean depths of De Silva’s skivvies. De Silva was as mendacious as a caged thief waiting for the gallows. He bullied, kicked, and punched. He was cantankerous, pugnacious, and as capricious as the British weather. An irascible man with no etiquette to speak of, who gobbed, belched, scratched his warts and digged deep in his nose and arse for all to see and he could not recite one line of the Lord’s Prayer. He subjugated all with the judgment as the Yahweh of the Old Testament. He told all and sundry of the time he broke the arms of his dearest in a port while she was in a state similar to the carrack, inertia through being completely pissed, the old tart! What he recalled the most was the feeling and sound of the snap. It was cathartic almost. Though seeing the arm dangling loosely was bathos. He caused great exasperation with his philippics against those whom believed in the Christ. De Silva had never fulfilled a journey. A thousand ships lay sunk at the bottom of the sea with the name of De Silva scratched into the wood.

* * *

Dunbar could not be Captain, though he was francus homo, and traveled to all ends of the universe, and knew men of property in London, Paris, Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. If De Silva sojourned in every putrid goal of the every splendid city for potus et exlex, well then, Dunbar sojourned in every cathedral worthy of veneration for the sin he committed. Dunbar was perpetually in flagrante delicto, for every pious being is concupiscence. One can only attract the devil if one knows of the devil. Sometimes, blindness is bliss. Dunbar was being pursed by his own demon brought back with him from the Holy Land. It was on the Via Dolorosa that Dunbar was tricked into believing that he would see the footprint of John the Baptist. It was while smoking that he stood before portas inferni and gave himself fully to his God. It was there also that Dunbar picked up his shadow. Dunbar’s shadow went by the name of Seth. A grotesque parasitic fly that obsequiously buzzed around Dunbar with saccharine sycophancy. Dunbar could not escape this ubiquitous vulture. He was domineering, superfluous, and extremely proficient in his unctuous duties. He was procrustean incarnate. He was perplexing, flabbergasting, and exasperating. He slipped from the ornate, the eloquent to the colloquial, to the vernacular. He could converse with a king or a fool with ease and at the same time and neither would know they were being led down the garden path. He lifted the glass to Dunbar’s lip, cut the meat on his plate, and unbuttoned his trousers on the way to the lavatory. When Dunbar’s mouth was smeared with food, Seth with alacrity was there to clean the soiled mouth. If Dunbar feigned illness, Seth would be there mothering, laying solicitous kiss upon kiss upon Dunbar’s somnolent, clammy temples. Seth was there before Mass and there after Mass. He sucked the life straight out of Dunbar, leaving him flaccid and in a perpetual state of inertia. Seth had the movements of a sylph and though his tone was sweet sounding it generated the feeling of drowning, of being overwhelmed in bees’ honey and goats’ milk.

At night under the clear moon the numinous Dunbar would recite his prayers most piously to the Lord the one God, for in the book it proclaims there is but one God, that polytheism is an anathema to his people. And so Dunbar prayed to the Lord, the one God and the Holy Ghost, Jesus the Saviour, the Virgin Mother; Honoratus, Arontius, Fortunatus, Savinian, Januarius, Septimus, Repositus, Sator, Vitalis, Donatus, Felix, and Felix the Younger. All worthy saints! And after his prayers Dunbar would proceed to lock himself secure in his damp, cold room where no light could penetrate or escape and perform with deep devotion flagellation. But unlike De Silva, Dunbar took no joy from the whip.

With teary eyes and watery nose Dunbar sauntered lazily to and fro without any real destination and always with Seth one pace behind him. To Dunbar’s traveling companions Seth was viewed as no more than a shadow with a funny incongruous large nose. Dunbar was in a flux of fear and illness, which he oscillated between with misery and pain. He was abhorred with an overwhelming passion, but nobody knew why and nobody illuminated to him of this passion that he stirred within his fellow companions. De Silva proclaimed once after Mass that he would strangle the lanky dripping arseplug until the excrement poured like wine from a casket from his arse and bile from his worthless holy mouth. De Silva was most salient in his hatred for Dunbar and his melancholy.


Dunbar was accompanied by the music of his sniffling, which varied in tone, cadence, and time. He had the face of a drowned whore’s arse and with teeth black like the rugged rocks of Dun Laoghaire and his breath was like that of a hard-working whore’s vital commodities but never having been with a woman he would not have known. At the dinner table he was as welcomed as the angel of death. Nobody could answer the conundrum: which was most vile—Dunbar’s mouth or De Silva’s arse? They were the mirror image of each other. It was a perplexing enigma, which nonplussed all and sundry. Once a member of the crew wolf whistled at Dunbar’s mouth. Dunbar came into a room with the same pessimism as the Christ entering Jerusalem and when he sat it was as though the sword of Damocles hung over him. He had same fatality, the same death wish as Apollonius of Tyana, forever questioning authority, forever flaunting his piety in front of despots! It was true, one night Dunbar in a panic stabbed his mother fifty-three times and then threw her dead body down the well. It was only after three months of his neighbors drinking the putrid water that they found the body. The heart they never found. It is reported in the church chronicles that one worthless old whore, three homeless children, five scavenging dogs, and one mangy cat were welcomed by Saint Peter at the golden gates of heaven as a result of the polluted water. If there had been a dog worthy, a cock, a snake, and a monkey, then after a good thrashing Dunbar would have been sewn in a sack with a dog, a cock, a snake, and a monkey, as was the custom for a culprit of parricide.

* * *

With diaphanous skin and lapis lazuli eyes, with the jack of clubs held as a mirror to his reflection, Tancred sat brooding. With ethereal beauty his eyes held the undulation like a lover despairingly. But an open wound they were, for once fathomed those eyes possessed death, pestilence, and annihilation indiscriminately. In those eyes one witnessed the snap of the neck, the bulging eyes, the swollen tongue, and the kicking of the feet. He proclaimed with great glee to all that he urinated in the drinking water and wiped his excrement onto the food utensils. Nobody believed he had perpetrated these nefarious needs. His eyes told other stories. There was a single tear that hung perpetually to his left eyelash. It was a melancholic tear that made manifest to all that Tancred was an innocent, if there could be one, upon the undulation. None looked upon the tear, for the tear was catholic. Within the flap of the mast Tancred would oscillate between euphoria and sadness. If he were not racing up the deck, he would be sat in the shadows staring into the darkness that reflected his soul. One night his love turned her back on Tancred and he broke her neck, it was that simple, he put his arms around her waist and she emitted a moan of love and he proceeded to move his hands amorously up around her neck and he did it. He did mean to. Man knows the pain and desires it.

* * *

The two vilest organs possessed by man are his genitals and his tongue. They should with acumen be an anathema to him, but he worships them fatuously. He will smote his beloved on the demand of one or the other with a passion of violence. One inebriates the other. I don’t know which is the most damning of the two. Sometimes I think it’s the genitals and then I witness the tongue in play and I change my mind. Though, I must admit I oscillate between the two flippantly throughout an hour. They are as ugly as each other. And I am not being glib! We need to pull out our tongues and cut the thing off and the same with the genitals! One quick swoop and freedom!

* * *

Hipparchus the Arbitrator was finishing off the inscription upon the timber that he had started soon after leaving dock. All were perplexed. Nobody had the sagacity to impugn the erudition of this genius. On a galley there are those who are forced to be the slaves and then there are those that pay.

Whereas Dunbar wept to the visceral Jewish Christ, Hipparchus the Arbitrator deemed the cerebral Apollonius of Tyana as the true voice of the Gods.

He was conceited with his loquacity! A real windbag! He stood head and bollocks above the rest. That’s the God’s truth! With fancy clothes, purples of every variety, he would ostentatiously flash his mighty wad around the place like some king. He would, the bugger! Once, De Siva screamed at him, you’re working for the Law not Bacchus! He did not reply. He manifested his contempt with the wave of his delicate hand. He was a fine gentleman worthy of any court around Europe, I tell you that. He was forever illuminating his sophistication with a flow of a mighty waterfall that showered all with his insights, and we were dirty sods. That’s what he told us, anyway. Most men toil for it, but this lofty fellow loitered into greatness, I tell you that, he stumbled into it like a drunk into an obese lazy wife.

* * *

Seth was sleeping. When he was awake he was forever dreaming; when he was dreaming he was always awake. He didn’t know where he was. They didn’t know where he was. Nobody ever saw him. It was one hallucination after another for him. Nobody bothered to illuminate Seth. With his shaved head and a countenance that begged for a kick in the pants he would follow Dunbar. Seth was well inured to the kick in the pants. Seth, veulent affaiblissement jour. It was true; time was no friend to Seth. Dilapidated he was and if death had a thousand and one doors to enter, all were locked to Seth. He could not give up the ghost because nobody would take the rag from him. Los gallows fueron hechos para el desafortunad.2 If this be true, well then, a strange irony made Seth lucky, for he would never know the weight of his own arse.

* * *

Le Blanc was dead.

The journey was halfway from the end and halfway from the start. Nobody knew where they where. Not even De Silva and he was Captain. And the time was completely lost. De Silva had twenty-one ampolettas, whereas the great Magellan had eighteen. But with great misfortune he had lost the lot. How this came to happen, nobody could answer. And so Mass became the ampolettas for all and all attended zealously. And so all were in harmony disorientated, but extremely pious. Le Blanc didn’t seem to care. He sat and impassively watched the undulation.

Erastus with great dexterity shuffled the cards.

Erastus is as blind as Tiresias. He can see the past and future but not the present. But he does not possess huge pendulous bristols. Erastus reeks of cabbages. It is a smell that is indelible like a bad nightmare that cannot be erased from the memory. Unless, that is, if you had the memory of Erastus. He could not remember a thing. It was a sieve! The problem was not up in the box! No, up there everything was working just dandy. It was the lies! The mendacity! The charades! Erastus was a lair. A bag of filthy wind! A lair of amazing complexity! He concocted labyrinths of fabrications worthy of Daedelus. But like the wings of Icarus, once Erastus’s lies were caught near the heat they fell apart astoundingly. He couldn’t tell the truth; even if truth came up and took a large piece of his arse, he would not tell the truth. It wasn’t that he told untruths believing them to be truthful; Erastus was as false as they come. And it was because of this that he was forever on his knees for he could not stand upon his lies. De Silva was an Adonis! Dunbar in the slavery of Seth! Hipparchus a thief! Tancred an Angel and Le Blanc vivacious and full of

* * *

Around the table the manifestations of horror were articulated upon the grimaces of the card players.

Under the blistering sun sat De Silva in between the signs of Capricorn and Sagittarius. Next to him sat Dunbar in between the signs of Scorpio and Libra. Caught between Virgo and Leo was Tancred. Shuffling was Erastus between the signs of Cancer and Gemini. Hipparchus the Arbitrator swatting flies sat in between the signs of Taurus and Aries. And finally Le Blanc sitting between Pisces and Aquarius dead to the world.

* * *

Seth when awake ran in great pain to escape the midday sun for his skin was peeling and his sores were revealed and hemorrhaging profusely. It was as though Seth suffered from Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa. Seth’s skin was like a weathered leather body suit that seemed to slip from his skeletal frame. This leathery integument was superfluous. But still Seth had a job to accomplish. Which he did with temerity and doggedness. He ran for drinks, for food, for the amusement of the card players. Inevitably Seth was abused, kicked, farted, and spat upon. Tancred took great pleasure in the practical joke of trapping Seth like a hare in the jaws of a crafty fox and violently rubbing his shaven head and pulling the blood clots and scabs, reopening the wounds. All laughed. Hipparchus the Arbitrator proclaimed that it was right and proper that Tancred should chastise Seth, for Tancred held the last spring of life in his azure eyes and Seth was putrefying and his carrion brought the odor of death to everybody.

* * *

On the first night of the odyssey under the blanket of a tempestuous maelstrom, when the undulation was a crescendo and the azure a blackness, dense like the scorched bones and flesh of martyrs, all the gold and silver were tossed overboard. It was not a performance in facsimile with Crates who tossed his patrimony into the undulation to make manifest his religious conviction. It was as though fathers were throwing their sons overboard to the leviathan. Some wept, some cussed God, and some nearly went with their treasure. It was a sad sight that night. It was here that the seeds of contempt for the undulation were sown. It was inevitable that something would be brought against the undulation for the nefarious misdemeanor. The carrack rolled and rocked and fear of drowning overwhelmed all. Some had visions of God and other contemplated following in the footsteps of Petronius and having a lazily, exuberant death for they too wanted to compose verse and idle. But once the ransom had been paid the ship found tranquility. The undulation slept. The leviathan was no more!

All felt as though they had been fleeced. In the throes of fear and disequilibrium the cargo became the currency. The history of the coin was eradicated as are the defeated in battle. Somente os vencedores serao recordados.3 Who remembers the men Alexander put down like scabby dogs? The card game had to go on.

* * *

All abhorred Erastus.

All detested Erastus.

All envied Erastus.

Like a crusader in the streets of Jerusalem he fleeced all. This is how he became banker. A heinous profession, but all knew that the bankers on earth would after the apocalypse end up dwelling in the mansions in paradise as they did on earth. And so all coveted Erastus and sought to be Erastus. He would never have to work again. And all abhorred work.

Erastus’s most cherished card, he proclaimed to all, was the queen of spades. She was his Athena. Her beauty mesmerized him. If she had not given him her aegis his throat would have been a second toothless mouth.

* * *

Dunbar once after Mass saw the Owl that sat upon his shoulder and advised Erastus to be given the spare hand perpetually. Hipparchus the Arbitrator stated that it was Nature that allowed Erastus to win the game of cards and thus it was right and proper. And all concurred with Hipparchus the Arbitrator.

* * *

Tancred sat brooding in complete silence; one could barely hear him inhale and exhale. His silence was an idiosyncrasy he shared all to himself. It was not that he was selfish, but the rest of the company was dreadfully garrulous. Tancred’s taciturn manner was a sign of his contumaciousness. Some were extremely verbose while others were flowery with words and were eloquent about the most mundane of happenings, such as eating and defecating. All took great pride in the knowledge that they could converse on any number of topics. One could always hear the perpetual cascade of words throughout the night. The marineros were inarticulate except when in the act of defection. Hipparchus the Arbitrator in the still of night would sing to the crew. Pulchra comis annisque decens et vultu dulce quiescenti basia blanda dabas. Si te vigilans non unquan cernere possum, somne precor, iugiter lumina nostra tene.4 Not one understood what he meant, but all agreed that he had a beautiful voice. An Angel, said some. Others said he had the voice of a lady of the stage. But all concurred it was as mellifluous as a mocking bird in the winter. He would tower above the marineros like the edifice of Babel. Whereas the crew was small and burly, Hipparchus the Arbitrator was tall and skeletal. Infuriated by the asinine questions, the ignoble responses, their lack of schooling, he would repute that the moon was the backside of God. It was a mighty arse! No, it was not cheese, nor did a man live up there. It was an onerous task, but he was never futile. They gathered around him, gesticulating, pointing to the moon and shaking their heads, flabbergasted. When one proclaimed that God should be ashamed of himself, he would tap the one warmly with encouragement and if another said a spanking was in order, then Hipparchus the Arbitrator would proceed to pinch a cheek and wink at the bright pupil as Aristotle must have done with Alexander. He told them of God and the Devil, but like the undulation and the azure he could not part the conjugation for the crew. However much he endeavored to dichotomize he was futile.

Hipparchus the Arbitrator exasperated De Silva for the crew were lazy, slothful, perpetually inebriated, grand farters, and when standing around the gentleman listening like children, they never lifted a finger in toil, but one or two could be discerned with a finger lodged up his arsehole. De Silva violently proclaimed to all that one day after Mass he would throw the lot of them to the leviathan. The leviathan would awake. They were scurrying to and fro, always in the way, forever pestering him and the rest of the card players about this and that, filled with plague, skin peeling, their pants full of excrement and piss stains and the smell they emanated like a whore’s vulva after a busy night, and De Silva wished that their deaths would be extremely unpleasant. He proclaimed that they should stop playing with each other’s pricks and man the riggings. Iza el trinquete.5 And he would scream most vehemently, Dad vuelta!6 But still Hipparchus the Arbitrator endeavored to illuminate to them the tenacity of the man who held the rope that suspended the morning star.

* * *

Seth and the currency have two things in common: both have no heart and both peel so that the skin unfolds in the mid-day sun. For cabbages became the currency. The European Brassica Oleracea. The manifest was on its way to Valparaiso in the Newfound Lands.

* * *

He’s burnt to a crisp! It’s he’s own damn fault. Always running around like some dolt. Hear! Hear! I don’t think he’s going to last much longer, spoke Erastus quietly. Nobody questioned Erastus; it was futile, superfluous, pissing in the wind. Well, if that is the case we best get him to quicken up the pace a bit. Yes, double the work. Double the load! Move, you donkeys! Work! Scrub! No slacking now. Seth passed life precariously, with uncertainty, fear, and trembling. De Silva with great contempt, and when he shouted, he shouted to all, They would do well to hang themselves!

I get the best out of my lads, for every beast is driven to the pasture with a kick up the arse!

* * *

Pythagoras forbids the consumption of the heart. The heart of Bacchus was devoured by Zeus, for after tearing the boy Bacchus to pieces, the Titans gobbled the flesh, but left the heart. In the chaos did the cabbage become gold and silver when the boy was swept off his feet. Down he went! The undulation took him. The Mortal was devoured by the immortal thus the immortal became mortal for the mortal became immortal.

* * *

We are all of the undulation! That’s the bollocks truth! Aye, bet my last tooth on it! But I just know we are of the undulation, for that’s all that comes out of me! Did you see him go down? Did that, floated down like some pagan! Face down towards hell! They say that De Silva only walks and talks now because he will float on his back like a good Christian! That’s the origin for the limp! A stone up his arse! He’s ready for king death! That’s the truth! He is a pious Catholic is De Silva!

For him being Captain, it was up to him to perform Mass through there being no Priest on the Ship. He did this service with overwhelming passion and devotion. With great gusto De Silva led the way with the singing of the Psalms and his voice was most salient when declaring himself a worm before the Lord. Hitherto the boy had performed the Pajes de escober, but now it was Tancred who went through the ritual for all concurred that God would be better pleased by the voice of the innocence.

* * *

How the moon was mooned.

Hitherto, the moon was the eye of the night.

De Silva saw all of the marineros defecate.

The words of Hipparchus the Arbitrator reverberated within the empty shells of the marineros. At first most thought it was the belly aching for food, but slowly all came to realize it was the idea of God showing his arse. With great exasperation the idea of returning the moon spread throughout the carrack. Surreptitiously the grumetes organized the event. Food would be needed to keep all awake and full of life. Prunes were purloined and passed freely around. In unison, when God once again mooned the carrack, Seth and the marineros dropped their pants and proceeded over the rail forward and aft. De Silva could not believe his eyes, seeing Seth and the marineros in the act of defection all around him. Someone was to blame and so the cook was ordered to clean both sides of the carrack.

The Helmsman was flogged for being a glutton and devouring all of the prunes ordered by a constipated De Silva. A hundred and fifty good ones connected with that scoundrel, while De Silva did a dance on the deck.

* * *

The round table upon the tolda was a grand table. Some of the marineros said it came from Camelot, but this was rebutted, for though it was grand enough to be the table which King Arthur and his Knights relived their tales, it was slightly smaller than that wondrous table. Others said it was found floating in the undulation, but this was repudiated for the wood was strong mahogany and not oak and thus it would not have been buoyant. Thus the origin of the table was an enigma. And so after Mass was performed and oblation given the pilgrims would settle at the table and proceed to play and inevitably Erastus would ensue to win. De Silva sat with a grimace upon his face. Erastus said nothing for he did not want to disturb the Captain. But Dunbar with great acumen placed a question upon the table. All were shocked! For De Silva would one day strangle Dunbar until he was blue in the face and he expectorated his soul. De Silva laughed most heartily and slapped Dunbar boisterously upon his back and proclaimed to all with great felicity: Arses would rather have straw than gold. All laughed in unison, understanding De Silva and his predicament, for to strangle a man is an onerous task, what with the hands and legs of the dying man fighting vigorously for life, and all knew that though Dunbar was a streak of piss, he would fight most spiritedly. And the prognostication was accurate.

Then Hipparchus the arbitrator softly spoke: as pigs would rather have cabbages than silver. And all agreed and understood, for the carrack went under the name of Pajaro Puerco.7 Thus the silver and gold, which had been tossed overboard into the undulation, was cleansed from the slate and was slowly eradicated from memory. But still the undulation had to stand trial for the murder of the cabin boy. This necation would have to meet retribution. This litigation should not be taken cum grano sali.8 Only a master of law, if there is one, and if not, then one close to being one, could perform the task. And so all looked upon Hipparchus the Arbitrator to come forth and take the case on—though it would be pro bona, of course. But think of the prominence, eminence, and the notoriety a case like this could bring, but the quagmire, the troubles, the enigmas, and the questions—what was one to do? What and whose law would this case fall under? Universal law, of course! One didn’t need to read all about torts, civ pro, wills, and know the in and outs of criminal law. One don’t need three years of schooling to know right and wrong. And, it is true, the undulation fell in the infra jurisdictionem of universal law. For all knew si quis, unum percusserit, cum alium percutere vellet, in felonia tenetur.9 For all knew that the undulation was after De Silva, but took the boy instead. It was unambiguous! As clear as piss water.

* * *

The undulation was indicted for that he not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, upon the cabin boy, being in the peace of God and our Lord the King, feloniously and willfully, and of his malice aforethought, did make an assault, and with both his hands and feet, him to and against the ground did cast and throw, and him in and upon the head, stomach, back, belly, and sides, feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, did strike, beat, and kick, giving him several mortal bruises, of which the said cabin boy then and there instantly died. And thereafter tossed the boy overboard into David Jones’s locker. There was no need to prove to the jury, for there was no jury, only De Silva, that the act was not perpetrated infra furorem10 or that the accursed was non compose mentis, it was simply when and where the undulation would be les pendulous Dei et regis.11 Hipparchus the Arbitrator would lead the prosecution ad finem.

They should hang the bugger! That would be bloody grand! So we could all go home! Many a time I’ve been smacked in the crown jewels! Don’t you mean village pebbles? One day, I’ll wring your neck! Hipparchus the Arbitrator proclaimed most solemnly that it would take the whole night to prepare for the task. Erastus said that there would be no need to wait for the azure for he already knew what had to be stated and with this Tancred demanded to be the executioner. And nobody stated nemo tenetur divinare.12 It would have been futile.

But the undulation! shouted the marineros, grumetes, and officials in complete unison. Puride! Putain! Gueulard! Zuccone! Capaneus! Bastard! What of the undulation? Nemo tenetur prodere seipsum.13 All concurred. But still, there would have to be equilibrium for all. Nemo tenetur seipsum prodere.14 But the undulation would have to defend himself before the court. Nemo tenetur jurare in suam turpitudinem.15 But still, surely the undulation would make an appearance? Nemo tenetur seipsum infortuniis et periculis exponere.16 All sighed, for nobody could find an opening in Hipparchus the Arbitrator’s erudition. It was as concrete as the Tower of Babel. And so before all the boy’s name and origin was for all to hear. Some lamented, some wept, while others shared a ribald joke. Hipparchus the Arbitrator demanded the death penalty. And the manas mediae17 cheered, farted, spat, belched, wolf whistled, clapped hands, danced a jig, drank a bottle of rum, defecated, urinated, were derogatory of female’s cons, and profaned most eloquently. The undulation was proclaimed malo animo.18 The cards were packed up by Estrus, and Seth onerously moved the table, for with the grace of a Greek player leaving behind the chorus Hipparchus the Arbitrator moved into the center of the stage. He swallowed his apple and licked his lips. He stared demagogically around him for Law is above all others. And if a priest, bishop, or cardinal, yes, and even a Pope, were to come before at this juncture in this epoch, they too would lower their heads, as the senate did when Tully coughed to clean his mighty throat of the phlegm that plagued him constantly.

Your honor, ladies and gentlemen, the two orbs that sail the azure and the purple, by the authority of God almighty, the father, son, and holy ghost, and the holy canons, and of the undefiled virgin Mary, mother and patroness of our Saviour, I stand before you not a familiares regis, but simply a manser19 who was ejaculated out of a coterie that held Law above all things. Law is the most powerful weapon bequeathed to the world of man. The law of right and wrong predates the Germanic and romantic. True law is not the labyrinthine law of the Byzantine world. Too problematical! Too complicated! The Corpus Juris Civilis is a mercantilist’s dream ticket! The Justinian law is just an alien as Timur the Lame! Law is the magnate and we must gravitate towards it! Like a whore to the port and a seamen to the whore. Law directs inexorably to the gallows, the trajectory is obfuscated, for inevitably that is where we always arrive at, our hands bound behind our backs, our sacks ready to bust, perspiration cascading down our backs, and the tears for our sad existence welling within us, we are a sad lot, and nowhere more manifest than before the Gates of Saint Peter. It is the awakening to the temporal problem! It is at moribundity that we truly reveal our true nature! Justice is just a word! You are in the noose and you are not! You are either swinging or you are watching. Law is an enigma! It is perplexity personified. It has been describe esoteric! Arcane! Semantics! When I sally forth and contemplate the fundamental rule of law I lose myself as man with the problem of longitude. In solitude I contemplate upon law, like sagacious men upon the egg and chicken, and I obfuscate myself with the quandary—which came first, law or crime. For crime and law, or law and crime, is first illuminated in the oldest book of this paltry earth. And Cain did slain Abel. He took the rock, the earth that brought forth his father and mother and gave them subsistence, and brought it down upon his brother. And he looked down upon his brother and wept for what he had perpetrated for he knew he had done wrong. Malum that is what Cain is and that is what I scream before Mare!

You silly mare! Stop chewing upon straw! Stop clutching at the straws! Me head's full of straw! Get on with it! Lord help us, my bollocks are drying up! That’s what you get for sleeping with straw!

Though I might be hoarse…I am no ass! Though all things obey fixed law, law does not obey fixity. Law is the shadow within the dominion of darkness, intangible, ephemeral, ethereal, perpetually out of the grip of man. Zooks! Zounds! I see we have a myriad of Thersites within this court, but none with the wit of Juvenal or the folly of Cattullus. Law is the Minotaur and the ever profligating labyrinth, with perennial vanishing points and appearing obstructions, wherein the angry beast is lost! Every time the beast feels he has found the exit another corridor appears before him.

What a mockery! You’re pulling both legs! Laugh! Yes, laugh! The undulation to stand before a court! I’ve never heard anything as daft! Do you hear me? Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. We are so close! Keep still. The lights! Cleveland! Soon, my pet, I’ll get you milk! Yes, lovely milk. Be still. Cleveland. No poetry, please. I do not prize artificial grief. It’s all behind us now. Cleveland, dad vuelta!20 You con! You blockhead! Stop staring! Move! Juegue el guimbalete para que la bomba achique.21 Hang the sot! Later! Later! Someone should flog that Cleveland today! He’s a big bugger, though!

Laugh, yes, laugh. But didn’t a simple pig in the Village of Calusium, in the year one thousand and fourteen of our Lord, stand trial, was found guilty and was duly hung for corrupting the youth in the style of Socrates! It is stated in the records of Saint Mobberley, that fine church worthy of Paris, that the guilty pig was drawn and quartered before it emitted its last breath. And what about the poor lamb of Breightment, England, a thief they branded him! The way he was butchered one would have thought he would have stolen the crown jewels and not the virginity of a schoolmaster’s daughter, the night before her wedding. And what about Giovanni Della Casa who was hung for not sowing a straight line! They found his cabbages, here, there, and everywhere! Even the Pope demanded satisfaction. A bull was proclaimed! A flying pig, more like! Never have I been mendacious! I am no demagogue! I wander perennially in the realm of veracity. If ever I am about to, or have done in the past, so let the fires of Saint Anthony plague me! Law has no heart, remember this! It is a double edge sword! And Blind! Law is of the mind, it is cerebral and not visceral! Remember this. You may pick up a book, and smell it. But still law is abstract! It is a whisper that becomes a boom that reverberates through this castle of ours! A ripple that becomes a mighty wave that crashes and finally washes away the rocks. Though, law proliferates like the Black Death it is forever stagnant. It is the ship upon the dead. And we are the dead! Cain hoisted the mast and the ship has not stopped upon its journey.

* * *

Is the undulation guilty? Enough of this verbosity! Yes! Let’s have the hanging! I don’t want to hear him rattle; it’s the rattle of his bones I want to hear! Somebody should remove his tongue! It’s not his tongue; it’s his lungs! Ten to a penny it will be a lengthy one! Erastus, tell all! The undulation is guilty, exclaimed Erastus to the lustrous company, to the marineros, grumetes, and officials. All bellowed a cheer of joy! Tancred did a little jig and Le Blanc did not stir. Hang the vermin! I will, by Jesus’ holy holes I will, yelled De Silva. Hipparchus the Arbitrator stood in a marble gaze and the only movement that could be detected was that of his heart. Seth picked his coagulated blood from the top of his shaven pate and tossed the pieces into the undulation. Tancred got the rope and proceeded to construct a fine noose worthy of any city! Will he shoot before the gates are closed upon him? Buckets, I bet! Dunbar fell to his knees and prayed for his soul!

A groan could be heard!

It was Hipparchus the Arbitrator.

O man of the earth, have we forgot what Thales illuminated for the world! I see that all have forgot! What sieves! Well, I will proceed and illuminate the dark lacunas of your minds! After I have finished, your caves will no longer be filled with the beast of darkness. When looking into the quandary of how we exist, a hypothesis epiphanuosly exploded before the lustrous Thales and he saw what came before him was that we were all formed out of water. Thus how may it be possible to condemn? Would we hang a woman for forcing back her newborn child into her womb? What stands before us now guilty is not the perpetrator of the crime that you have pleaded me to litigate, for like a flowing river we never bathe in the same waters! Our toes never dip into stagnant waters. For each particle is superseded in the movement. The undulation is not stagnant! We have the wrong man!

The wrong man? bellowed De Silva, Erastus, Tancred, Dunbar, Le Blanc, Seth, the marineros, the grumetes, and the officials, flabbergasted, in unison. All were overwhelmed at the effrontery of Hipparchus the Arbitrator and his revelation!

It is another apocryphal long one from this donkey! He truly was a demagogue! A fabricator! A paroxysm swept through all. Let’s hang this arse instead! Yes, like they hung Thrasimachus and Lysimachus! Yes, if we are formed of water, well then, this blockhead is as guilty as the waters of yesterday day! I concur! I believe, also! Cut the rope! A shorter length is needed for this fellow! Lunting, pugnacious all grew in dimension…edifices they now became! And the supercilious mask of Hipparchus the Arbitrator slipped like Agamemnon’s after the third scene. There’s a need to know the weight and mass. O he’ll soon know the weight of his own arse! And what’s in it! And that he’s made of water! Now, this is empiricism at its best! Now you’ve gone too far! It was as though the pumkinhead was lost in Daedelus’s labyrinth and the only sound he could hear was the grunting of the Minotaur! You would have thought Zeus was on his end, for he became a bloody fish right before our eyes, he did! There was no denying it! He struggled for breath! His eyes bulged as though the noose were already tightening around his neck! He emanated noxious odors of the lowest order. His veins were just ready to pop! His tongue was ejaculated from his blue lips! The fight was for air! De Silva pulled up a chair for Hipparchus the Arbitrator to stand on. His arms were bound tightly just below the elbow and they should have gagged the windbag for like a bad arse he had to vent his fear!

Dat Veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas.23 It is now that I see the wise man’s eyes are in his head and that the fools are up his arse! Blind! I was once blind, but now I can see! Yes, see, see most clearly! For now I know Law is nothing when Violence appears on the stage! Like all things Violence annihilates! Unlike Tacitus, I will not deliberately avoid calling a spade a spade; I will not use his periphrasis, things by which the earth is extracted. Nero went to taverns, just like the Tabard and not to restaurants. A man may disagree, allude to great authorities, wax eloquently, huff it out, and yet be rotten at heart. I confess that if my heart was placed upon a catafalque it would be pure white like the snow that falls in winter. And though I confess I am in the throes of pusillanimity, and silently weep to Saint Jerome to hold me as he held two criminals dangling from the gallows, so beautifully painted by the master Pietro Perugino. O the exuberant red of Saint Jerome’s cloak astonishes the eyes! It is a red that I have never seen before! The red is the color of the blood that runs through man’s veins. It is the color of wine that the Christ turned from simple water for his mother. And never have I seen two paragons of beauty portrayed on the same canvas! Their tender bodies do not hang like the grotesque peasantry we see all around the great cities of Europe, riddled with disease, blemished, they levitate like ethereal angels. O my maenads of the undulations. O I mistake; I beg your pardon. I meant to say, my Myrmidons of the undulations. I listen to your enunciations, the mishandling of words, your lexicon, your colloquiums, your argot, and your vernacular and I am exasperated with overwhelming profundity. But I must remember that profaners and blasphemers are more disposed to lying. I think it would be right to cut out your tongues and mitigate the pollution. There is a lot to say about straight talking, as there is a juncture to be loquacious—no, even verbose—there is a time when one should be able to sojourn in the wonders of purple eloquence. I know what you are thinking; I am on the shoulders of Zeus once again and, yes, unlike Homer I will use the word Donkey in abundance for I will proclaim to all that you sirs are all donkeys! I am forever in search like Sir Thomas Moore for Citizens ruled by good and wholesome laws. But as with him I know that is an exceedingly rare and a hard thing. It is futile! I might as well spit blood into an empty glass. So be done with me! For some the gallows were made for the lucky! Man does not know he has been happy until death. So true! It is after this ordeal that I will sing and give joy! I know fear makes men believe the worst, but I proclaim that heaven is waiting for me! I go the Cicero way! The fear of death is not death but the fear.

* * *

Wake up, Svap! Wake up! I won’t have it! Wake up and stop lusting after those Naiads! Svap, do you hear me? Get up! Svap, I’ll beat those damn Naiads out of you! Svap, zafa los embornales.24 You’re a bloody goat, that’s what you are, Svap! Stop your yammering and lulilooing; there’s going to be a hanging!

A cheer exploded like Chinese fireworks from the marineros! It was a lustful cheer as though there were naked Naiads parading about and everybody knows how much marineros lust after Naiads. This is pure debauchery! proclaimed Hipparchus the Arbitrator. No, no, stated De Silva, debauchery isn’t going into the whorehouse, it’s not coming out! All laughed merrily at De Silva.

My soul is like a flying pig, lost on the undulations! I am perplexed as to where all this leads! cried Hipparchus the arbitrator.

Dunbar stopped his recital to laugh also and Tancred clapped his hands to manifest his awe and gave Seth a bloody good kick in the pants. Now you have crossed the line! Yes!

The line has been crossed!

All were bowled over! The marineros all fell to their knees and did the sign of the cross; the grumetes took off their tops and waved them to and fro and the officials solemnly prayed. De Silva came forth and pontificated that there will be no hanging on this holy point in time and any man with violent thoughts should cease or suffer the pains of excommunication. Bloody quiet was everybody. Not a movement. Not a belch, not a cough, not even a fart. Not a stir. Tancred was ordered to cut the bonds and throw the twine into the undulation. With disgust he performed his duty. Well, the line was now crossed. So Erastus proclaimed that somebody would have to pay for the crime that was committed. Hipparchus the Arbitrator came forth and proclaimed that the sea would receive sixty of the best. Winced all did. Sixty of the best! And more came from him. He would pay for not one but two substitutes! He was pushing out the boat now. All clapped at his philanthropy! Two, he said! De Silva was lost for words! In the next hour he would double his lot! He didn’t know if to dance or play the flute with his arse! So as quick as a rabbit upon a goat, Svap and Cleveland were hooded and coupled.

Cleveland: One last request, your holiness.

De Silva: So be it.

Cleveland: Let Svap and myself be joined in matrimony.

Svap: O Cleveland.

De Silva: So be it

Cleveland: Place a rock in my arse so that I go down facing upwards.

Svap: The same with me, Captain.

De Silva: So be it.

Cleveland: God be praised.

De Silva: Do you take Svap?

Cleveland: I do.

De Silva: Same with you, Svap.

Svap: As Peter will welcome me, I do.

De Silva: With the powers invested in me granted by our Lord the king and all who serve under him I pronounce you man and wife. Now you may proceed and execute them both!


1If one is pedantic, one will find the knight Sir Politic Would-Be in the play Volpone by Ben Jonson.
2The gallows was made for the unlucky.
3Only the victors shall be remembered.
4Young and gold haired, fair of face, Thou gav’st me tender kisses in my sleep. If waking I may never look upon thee, O sleep, I pray, never let me wake!
5Raise the foresail.
6Put your back into it.
7Flying Pig.
8With a grain of salt.
9If a man kill one, meaning to kill another, he is held guilty of felony.
10During madness.
11In the peace of God and the king.
12No man is bound to divine, or to have foreknowledge of, a future event.
13No one is bound to accuse himself.
14No one is bound to betray himself.
15No one is bound to swear to the fact of his own criminality.
16No one is bound to expose himself to misfortunes and dangers.
17Men of the lowest degree.
18With an evil mind.
19Bastard.
20Put your back into it.
21Work that pump brake till she sucks.
22Calais.
23The verdict acquits the raven, but condemns the dove. Juvenal. Satires (11)
24Clear the scuppers.

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