Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Funeral For a Friend

Went to an Old Boy's funeral yesterday afternoon. I'd been asked to do a eulogy, which I accomplished without fluffing my lines. Also had a couple of poems to read - The Conway Gulls by John Masefield (who was an Old Boy of the school) and Tennyson's Crossing the Bar.

Masefield imagined gulls on masts being the souls of returned HMS Conway Old Boys.


They died in the gales' roaring, in the smash
Of some green billow whence they never rose;
Some diced with Death with many lucky throws
Till the last throw, that nulled them into ash.

Some were for all adventure, being rash;
And others died, in thirst and fever-throes,
On frontiers at the furthest that man goes,
Or on the foreman's muzzles, in the flash.

And being gone, they wander home again
Here, to the Ship, and settle on her spars,
Mewing and going gleaning in the sea. 

They are our brothers, so let them be,
Old Conways, fellow-sharers of the stars,
Advanced another link upon the chain.

A bar in nautical parlance is a shallow, generally sandy area across an estuary which can only be crossed at high tide, or you go around, if you can. Crossing the Liverpool bar is a colloquialism for arriving at one's home port, or kicking the bucket.


Sunset and evening star, 
And one clear call for me! 
And may there be no moaning of the bar, 
When I put out to sea, 

But such a tide as moving seems asleep, 
Too full for sound and foam, 
When that which drew from out the boundless deep 
Turns again home. 

Twilight and evening bell, 
And after that the dark! 
And may there be no sadness of farewell, 
When I embark; 

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place 
The flood may bear me far, 
I hope to see my Pilot face to face 
When I have crost the bar.

Eulogising held no terrors for me, as I wrote the words and can generally remember the gist with just a few key words on a piece of paper. The wedding speech was good practice too. With a poem, however (especially when the audience has a copy in the Order of Service) it's not easy to cover a fluff with some ad-libbing. Archaic language only adds to the problem.

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