Sunday, 17 May 2009

The Shipwright's Trade

Marine artist James Dodds originally trained as a shipwright in a traditional yard in Maldon, so Kipling's poem The Shipwright's Trade has a special resonance for him. He illustrated the poem with a series of woodcuts and linocuts in a delightful little book, published by his own imprint, the Jardine Press.
Here's the poem, but to get the pictures you will have to buy the book, tremendous value at £9.95 - it is available online here.
I tell this tale, which is stricter true,
Just by way of convincing you
How very little, since things was made,
Things have altered in the shipwrights trade.

In Blackwall Basin yesterday
A China barque re-fitting lay;
When a fat old man with snow-white hair
Came up to watch us working there.

Now there wasn't a knot which the riggers knew
But the old man made it - and better too;
Nor there wasn't a sheet, or a lift, or a brace,
But the old man knew its lead and place.

Then up and spoke the caulkyers bold,
Which was packing the pump in the afterhold:
"Since you with us have made so free,
Will you kindly tell what your name might be ?"

The old man kindly answered them:
"It might be Japheth, it might be Shem,
Or it might be Ham (though his skin was dark),
Whereas it is Noah, commanding the Ark.

"Your wheel is new and your pumps are strange,
But otherwise I perceive no change;
And in less than a week, if she did not ground,
I'd sail this hooker the wide world round !"

Jardine Press will be publishing River Colne Shipbuilders in September.

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