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Where he sought symbols, we, for him, must seek
A metaphor, lest mere praise should fall short
Of how the poems of his last years set
Our standards for the speech that brings the real
To integrated order dearly bought,

Catching the way complexity would speak
If it had one voice. This, he makes us feel,
Is where all deeper meanings are well met,
Contained in a majestic vessel made
Out of the sea it sails on, yet so strong
We never, watching it our whole lives long,
Doubt its solidity. All else may fade,
But this stands out as if it had been sent
To prove it can have no equivalent. 

Even his first things were wind-driven boats.
A coracle would have its speed enhanced
By some queen elf who stood with gauze shift spread,
Materialising from the twilight mist.
Slim dhows, as his romantic urge advanced,
Sliced through the East. A little navy floats
In his early pages. Sleek sloops joined the list
When more substantial things asked to be said.
His wild-swan racing schooners heeled and ran
Cargo from Athens, Bethlehem and Rome,
Or the body of an Irish airman home
Across the gale. The full soul of a man
Was on display: sound craft of trim outline
Criss-crossed the billows. All of his design, 

These would have been enough to make him great:
The caravelles that reached Byzantium
Alone proved him unmatched. Then, at the heart
Of this flotilla, as if light were haze,
Something appeared to strike the viewer dumb:
A huge three-decker fighting ship of state.
Acres of air caught in her tiered arrays
Of raw silk, she made clear, in every part,
All of her million parts were cleanly wrought
To fit together with no need of nails.
From gun-decks upward to top-gallant sails
She was one artefact, a cloud drawn taut
By force, so far beyond its builder's mind
It felt for him, and saw where he was blind. 

Tea-clipper-tall but at the waterline
Three times the width, she had the looks to quell
Resistance instantly by show of might:
Empires would knuckle under. Ireland
Itself would kneel to see her breast the swell
With such bulk. But develop and refine
This image as we may, and as we planned — 
Down to the shining brass, sheets chalky white,
Glazed lanterns, mullioned windows, oaken rails  — 
It will not serve the turn without a sense
Of brute strength tempered by benevolence.
The monarch reigns supreme because her sails,
From cinquecento chapel walls low down
On up through salon panels to her crown

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