The White Ship

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This is an Anglish wending of The White Ship by H. P. Lovecraft. This reading is made of only Old English-sprung words, other than things that Old English did not have words for, such as basalt, and any words with unknown backgrounds. Went by Wordwork.

The Writ

I am Basil Elton, keeper of the North Head light that my father and eldfather kept before me. Far from the shore stands the grey lighthouse, above sunken slimy stones that are seen when the tide is low, but unseen when the tide is high. By that beacon for a yearhundred have swept the lofty tall ships of the seven seas. In the days of my eldfather there were many; in the days of my father not so many; and now there are so few that I sometimes feel weirdly alone, as though I were the last man on our Earth.

From far shores came those white-sailed crafts of old; from far Eastern shores where warm suns shine and sweet smells linger about outlandish groves and shining churches. The old shiplords of the sea came often to my eldfather and told him of these things, which in wend he told to my father, and my father told to me in the long harvest evenings when the wind howled eerily from the East. And I have read more of these things, and of many things besides, in the books men gave me when I was young and filled with wonder.

But more wonderful than the lore of old men and the lore of books is the hidden lore of sea. Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or highlandish; that sea is not calm. All my days have I watched it and listened to it, and I know it well. At first it told to me only the bare little tales of calm beaches and near havens, but with the years it grew more friendly and spoke of other things; of things more outlandish and more far-away in room and in time. Sometimes at twilight the grey mists of the outlook have sundered to give me glimpses of the ways beyond; and sometimes at night the deep waters of the sea have grown sheer and glowing, to give me glimpses of the ways beneath. And these glimpses have been as often of the ways that were and the ways that might be, as of the ways that are; for sea is more fern than the barrows, and laden with the mins and the dreams of Time.

Out of the South it was that the White Ship would come when the moon was full and high in the heavens. Out of the South it would glide so smoothly and whistly over the sea. And whether the sea was rough or calm, and whether the wind was friendly or unwilling, it would always glide smoothly and whistly, its sails far-off and its long weird layers of oars shifting steadily. One night I glimpsed upon the topside a man, bearded and shrouded, and he seemed to beckon me to leave for fair unknown shores. Many times afterward I saw him under the full moon, and ever did he beckon me.

Swithe brightly did the moon shine on the night I answered the bid, and I walked out over the waters to the White Ship on a bridge of moonbeams. The man who had beckoned now spoke a welcome to me in a soft tongue I seemed to know well, and the stounds were filled with soft songs of the oarsmen as we glided away into a riddling South, golden with the glow of that full, mellow moon.

And when the day dawned, rosy and dazzling, I beheld the green shore of far lands, bright and sheen, and to me unknown. Up from the sea rose lordly shelves of greenness, tree-studded, and shewing here and there the gleaming white roofs and beams of outlandish churches. As we drew nearer the green shore the bearded man told me of that land, the Land of Zar, where dwell all the dreams and thoughts of sheenness that come to men once and then are forgotten. And when I looked upon the shelves eft I saw that what he said was true, for among the sights before me were many things I had once seen through the mists beyond the outlook and in the glowing depths of sea. There too were shapes and dreams more sheen than any I had ever known; the swevens of young shops who ended in wishfulness before the world could learn of what they had seen and dreamed. But we did not set foot upon the sloping meadows of Zar, for it is told that he who treads them may nevermore eftcome to his homely shore.

As the White Ship sailed whistly away from the hallowed shelves of Zar, we beheld on the far outlook ahead the spires of a mighty stead; and the bearded man said to me: “This is Thalarion, the Stead of a Thousand Wonders, wherein reside all those riddles that man has worked worthless to fathom.” And I looked eft, at nearer breadth, and saw that the stead was greater than any stead I had known or dreamed of before. Into the heavens the spires of its churches reached, so that no man might behold their tops; and far back beyond the outlook stretched the grim, grey walls, over which one might glimpse only a few roofs, weird and foreboding, yet donned with rich frills and spaning carvings. I yearned mightily to go into this spellbinding yet withstanding stead, and besought the bearded man to land me at the stone wharf by the great carven gate Akariel; but he softly withsaid my wish, saying: “Into Thalarion, the Stead of a Thousand Wonders, many have gone but none come back. Therein walk only devils and mad things that are no longer men, and the streets are white with the unburied bones of those who have looked upon the wraith Lathi, that leads over the stead.” So the White Ship sailed on by the walls of Thalarion, and followed for many days a southward-flying bird, whose glistening feathers matched the heavens out of which it had arisen.

Then came we to a mild seaboard rich with blossoms of every hue, where as far inland as we could see basked lovely groves and gleaming wineframes beneath a midday sun. From bowers beyond our sight came bursts of song and snatches of wordly frith, bestrewn with soft laughter so heavenly that I besought the rowers onward in my keenness to reach the setting. And the bearded man spoke no word, but watched me as we came near the lily-strewn shore. Shortly a wind blowing from over the blossomed meadows and leafy woods brought a smell at which I shook. The wind grew stronger, and the lift was filled with the deadly, lichhouse stench of sickness-stricken towns and open graveyards. And as we sailed madly away from that loathsome shore the bearded man spoke at last, saying: “This is Xura, the Land of Lusts Unfulfilled.”

So once more the White Ship followed the bird of heaven, over warm blessed seas fanned by fondling, sweet breezes. Day after day and night after night did we sail, and when the moon was full we would listen to soft songs of the oarsmen, sweet as on that far night when we sailed away from my far homeland. And it was by moonlight that we moored at last in the harbour of Sona-Nyl, which is warded by twin headlands of hurst that rise from the sea and meet in a shining bow. This is the Land of Frills, and we walked to the green shore upon a golden bridge of moonbeams.

In the Land of Sona-Nyl there is neither time nor room, neither suffering nor death; and there I dwelt for many elds. Green are the groves and fields, bright and sweet-smelling the blossoms, blue and gleefull the streams, sheer and cool the springs, and lofty and lovely the churches, boroughs, and steads of Sona-Nyl. Of that land there is no bound, for beyond each sight of sheenness rises another more sheen. Over the upland and amidst the wonder of steads rove at will the blithe folk, of whom all are gifted with unmarred loveliness and flawless blissfulness . For the elds that I dwelt there I wandered blissfully through groves where whimsiful shrines peep from handsome crowds of bushes, and where the white walks are hemmed with soft blossoms. I climbed mild hills from whose tops I could see spellbinding overlooks of loveliness, with steepled towns nestling in blooming dales, and with the golden caps of whopping steads glittering on the endlessly far outlook. And I saw by moonlight the sparkling sea, the hurst headlands, and the still harbour wherein lay moored the White Ship.

It was upon the full moon one night in the unending year of Tharp that I saw outlined the beckoning shape of the otherworldly bird, and felt the first stirrings of unrest. Then I spoke with the bearded man, and told him of my new yearnings to leave for faraway Cathuria, which no man hath seen, but which all believe to lie beyond the basalt beams of the West. It is the Land of Hope, and in it shine the wholesome beliefs of all that we know elsewhere; or at least so men say. But the bearded man said to me: “Beware of those threatening seas wherein men say Cathuria lies. In Sona-Nyl there is no hurt nor death, but who can tell what lies beyond the basalt beams of the West?” Natheless at the next full moon I boarded the White Ship, and with the wary bearded man left the blithe harbour for unfared seas.

And the bird of heaven flew before, and led us toward the basalt beams of the West, but this time the oarsmen sang no soft songs under the full moon. In my mind I would often see the unknown Land of Cathuria with its wonderful groves and halls, and would wonder what new mirths there foresaw me. “Cathuria,” I would say to myself, “is the abode of gods and the land of unrimed steads of gold. Its woods are of aloe and sandalwood, even as the sweet smelling groves of Camorin, and among the trees flutter sheen birds sweet with song. On the green and blossomed barrows of Cathuria stand churches of rosy marmstone, rich with carven and drawn mearthows, and having in their yards cool springs of silver, where purl with dazzling song the sweet smelling waters that come from the shrave-born stream Narg. And the steads of Cathuria are hemmed with golden walls, and their floorings also are of gold. In the groves of these steads are weird ballockworts, and sweet smelling lakes whose beds are of coral and elksand. At night the streets and the groves are lit with bright lightvats shaped from the three-hued shell of the shellpad, and here sing out the soft ringing of the singer and the harper. And the houses of the steads of Cathuria are all great halls, each built over a sweet smelling waterway bearing the waters of the holy Narg. Of marmstone and porphyry are the houses, and roofed with glittering gold that throw back the beams of the sun and strengthens the wonder of the steads as blissful gods see them from the far-flung caps. Fairest of all is the hall of the great king Dorieb, whom some say to be a halfgod and others a god. High is the hall of Dorieb, and many are the spires of marmstone upon its walls. In its wide halls many manifolds gather, and here hang the keepsakes of the elds. And the roof is of clean gold, set upon tall beams of ruby and azure, and having such carven likenesses of gods and healths that he who looks up to those heights seems to look upon the living Olympus. And the floor of the hall is of glass, under which flow the cunningly lighted waters of the Narg, rich with lofty fish not known beyond the bounds of lovely Cathuria.”

Thus would I speak to myself of Cathuria, but ever would the bearded man warn me to wend back to the blithe shores of Sona-Nyl; for Sona-Nyl is known of men, while none hath ever beheld Cathuria.

And on the thirty-first day that we followed the bird, we beheld the basalt beams of the West. Shrouded in mist they were, so that no man might look beyond them or see their caps — which indeed some say reach even to the heavens. And the bearded man once more bid me to wend back, but I heeded him not; for from the mists beyond the basalt beams I liked there came the ringing of singer and harper; sweeter than the sweetest songs of Sona-Nyl, and singing mine own worths; the worths of me, who had fared far under the full moon and dwelt in the Land of Frills.

So to the loud of song the White Ship sailed into the mist betwixt the basalt beams of the West. And when the glee ended and the mist lifted, we beheld not the Land of Cathuria, but a swift-flowing withstandless sea, over which our helpless ship was borne toward some unknown goal. Soon to our ears came the far thunder of falling waters, and to our eyes arose on the far outlook ahead the titanish spray of a great waterfall, wherein the seas of the world drop down to unending nothingness. Then did the bearded man say to me with tears on his cheek: “We have forsaken the fair Land of Sona-Nyl, which we may never behold again. The gods are greater than men, and they have overcome.” And I shut my eyes before the crash that I knew would come, shutting out the sight of the heavenly bird which flapped its unkind blue wings over the edge of the falls.

Out of that crash came darkness, and I heard the howling of men and of things which were not men. From the East stormy winds arose, and chilled me as I stooped on the cut of sodden stone which had risen beneath my feet. Then as I heard another crash I opened my eyes and beheld myself upon the shelf of that lighthouse from whence I had sailed so many elds ago. In the darkness below there loomed the great blurred shape of a craft breaking up on the evil stones, and as I looked out over the wrack I saw that the light had lost for the first time since my eldfather had undernumb its care.

And in the later watches of the night, when I went within the tower, I saw on the wall a rimebook which still held as when I had left it at the stound I sailed away. With the dawn I went down the tower and looked for wrack upon the stones, but what I found was only this: a weird dead bird whose hue was as of the blue heavens, and a lone shattered spear, of a whiteness greater than that of the wave-tips or of the barrow snow.

And thereafter the sea told me its riddles no more; and though many times since has the moon shone full and high in the heavens, the White Ship from the South came never eft.