Poem in Weekend Australian
Andrew’s poem, “Vikings”, was published in the 21-22 March 2020 issue of the Weekend Australian newspaper’s Review magazine.
“Vikings” is a tribute to the Australian poet, novelist and essayist Hal G.P. Colebatch, who died in September last year (2019). Andrew conducted the service and delivered the eulogy at Hal’s funeral.
The poem grew from an overwhelming sense of loss and reflects Hal’s passion for the sea and seafaring, and his preoccupation with heroism and courage. It also references Hal’s Christian faith, a faith that his wife, Alexandra, asked Andrew to emphasise in his funeral eulogy.
In keeping with the Viking theme, the poem employs the old Anglo-Saxon and Norse poetic techniques of kenning and alliteration.
The only regret Andrew has about the poem is that it was written too late for Hal to see it.
Vale Hal GP Colebatch, September 2019
More than women, the Norsemen loved longboats,
craved the pregnant sail on the prow-ploughed sea.
Safeguarded by fearsome spirit-scarer figureheads
they followed lodestone and starlight to far lands.
You, too, my life-long life-robbed brother, prized boats—
skippered them round coves, out to islands, and past.
And for all the wonder and vigour, you loved most
the real-rules and fixed-facts of the guileless sea.
The Vikings were violent vainglorious men,
mean treasure-takers, keen voyagers of quest.
Most of their own making, the foes they fought—
and how valiant they were to violate the weak!
But you waged battles to defend your dears—
and did so bravely, without brag or boast.
Undriven by coin-crave or fame-lust, you set sail
against prevailing winds towards the common good.
Their chief weapon, these ravishers and reavers,
was the Dane-axe, the body-hacker … and, too,
the shield, which, when unneeded in the wall,
was swung for chest-wallop and windpipe-wedge.
You, brother, campaigned not with muscle-might
but with brain-brawn, courage and word-craft.
For weal, not woe, you wielded your ink-sword,
mindful mind-moving serves conquest the best.
At the last they veered, the Vikings, to Christ
and He turned to dust their roam- and blood-lust.
He was the wergild for the blood-debt they owed
to the Sovereign who claims, ‘All souls are mine!’
You likewise saw Christ walking on the whale-road
and heaving to, you hailed Him come aboard.
He took your fealty-oath, this Captain-King,
and to the hoped-for harbour He steered your ship.
© Andrew Lansdown