STEM, tanka

Becalmed — Then and Now

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Strictly speaking, this post is not a response to Becalmed ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #91 because I used neither the challenge photo nor an image that I made.  By posting after the challenge closed, I hope to acknowledge the inspiration w/o having a pingback look too much like a bungled response.

For sailors on the open sea in the past, to be becalmed was always a hardship and sometimes a disaster, as described in Goethe’s poem Meerestille (or Calm Sea).  I got the image and English translation dislayed in this post from a website celebrating German Romantic literature.  U can read another English translation of Goethe’s poem here.

My tanka expresses yesterday’s fears in today’s language.


Becalmed in Olden Times
|Viking longships moved
|with oars pulled by aching arms.
|Oarless ships stood still.
|Oarless crews waited for wind,
|while food and water ran low.

As the photo and poem in the challenge so aptly illustrate, to be becalmed can be a pleasant experience nowadays.  Admire the crescent moon and furl the sails.  Start the engine and head for home.  Be confident of getting there.

My tanka expresses yesterday’s fears in today’s language, lest we forget how high we have climbed and how far we could fall, in technology if not in poetry.

7 thoughts on “Becalmed — Then and Now

  1. I have to confess I’ve never thought about how horrible it could be to become “becalmed” in olden days. Nowadays we are more likely to become marooned by our over reliance on technology. Excellent tanka.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hard to estimate how many ships were lost at sea because of storms as opposed to running out of supplies while becalmed. While technology provides welcome smoothing of nature’s rough edges, those who neglect seamanship and foresight can still get nasty shocks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. <smile> Nowadays, we panic when becalmed electromagnetically. 😉

    Being not so immured to rules and technicalities myself, I would never discount an entry for such a minor transgression, particularly when the words — and their insight — are of such quality. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for both comments.

      Yes, even oldsters like me (still reading physical books and keeping hard copies of important docs) get queasy at the thought that an outage might last more than a few days.

      Will remember (and try not to abuse) your flexibility about challenge responses. Tho respectful of rules that make sense when I write poems or prose, I do break rules when I see a good reason to break them.


  3. Dylan Thomas would’ve understood the danger of being too calm…

    “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

    Your tanka was splendid; for isn’t it in death, that we are forever calm?

    Liked by 1 person

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