Joseph Mallord William Turner yacht approaching the coast
Joseph Mallord William Turner ‘Yacht approaching the coast

Yacht Approaching the Coast

Patricia Beer

Winds ago the Gordons’ yacht
Approached a coast of lemon sand,
Long hills with rivers sliding out.
It was just as they had planned,
The details sharp as glass, clear cut:

City women who had left home
For a month to walk beside the ocean
And past the new assembly room,
Parasols opening to the sun,
Pugs breathing like a well-bred dream,

The villas in their avenues
Strewn against noise with grey-green leaves
Fallen from eucalyptus trees,
The church with a design of graves
And steady angels in the grass,

Where suddenly the tide-race shivers
They took their pick of the white houses
And near the safest of the rivers
In my home town of all places
Sat down beside the other rovers.

But on goes Turner’s sailing boat
Through the scarlet whirlpool (past
The Gordons sitting dressed in white)
Dancing, to join an unquiet coast
That he can see and they could not.

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Shipwreck
Joseph Mallord William Turner ‘The Shipwreck’

Patricia Beer was born in Devon and educated at Exmouth Grammar School, Exeter University and Hugh’s College, Oxford. After teaching at the University of Padua and London University, she became a fulltime writer. She has published several volumes of poetry, the most recent being Collected Poems (1988) Carcanet, an autobiography, a novel and two works of criticism. She is married to Damien Parsons; they live in Devon.

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Thames near Walton Bridges
Joseph Mallord William Turner The Thames near Walton Bridges