Things Passed Away

In lapis, dun and grey, heave, swell and gale

are stilled; the whispering mast and shingle-roar

silenced. Small boats of larch and oak and prayer

take on the storm with slender oars and straining sail.

Umber and ochre beget beast and bale,

the harvest cart, the scythe, the brooding moor,

and, as lowering clouds advance upon the shore,

the lover waits, the mother saves the veil.

But soon, beyond these whelming cobalt seas,

young men will reel, mistaking smoke for fret

and blasted shells for raining ore or jet,

seeking dolphins as they to darkness yield.

Then, painting dark on dark when life has ceased,

charred bones become ivory-black and stain the field.



© Jane Poulton  2015


Things Passed Away is a sonnet commissioned to commemorate World War One. It was inspired by the paintings of the Staithes Group of Artists in the permanent collection of the Pannett Gallery, Whitby, which reflect a world untainted by the horrors of war. The poem makes reference to seafaring folklore, to the colours used in the paintings and to the industries depicted in them—fishing, farming, jet working and ironstone mining—and it imagines what happened, in many cases, to the men from these tightly-knit communities who lost their lives on the field of battle.

The title of the poem is taken from the foreword, by the fisherman Frank Wheeler, to the collection of drawings by Ernest Dade in his book, Sail and Oar, published in 1933. Here the phrase refers not only to lost lives, but also to lost ways of life.


Pannett Art Gallery, Pannett Park
Whitby, North Yorkshire
YO21 1RE

Tel: 01947 600933

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