Meditations from the Classics
Carmina (Poem 4)
Once there was a boat, said Catullus.
And what a boat it was! It knew, even while it stood among its fellow trees on a high mountain summit, long before it was ever cut and shaped into the form of a sleek ocean traveler, that it would be great.
Those ‘summit’ days were dreamy ones for the boat to be. Gazing out over the cliffs to the distant sea, it tasted the salt and felt the breezes sifting through its sails.
Then, as dreams are wont to do, the boat was born. Skilled artisans formed its hull, planted a tall mast on the firm deck, and raised its sails to the heavens.
Once the vessel hit the water
“…it flew upon the sea
and, birdlike, fled more rapidly
than all the rest. Swift ships have failed
to catch it when they raced with oar and sheet.
All met with quick defeat.”
What a ship! said Catullus. It weathered all the storms with ease. Never beaten or conquered, it sailed with high spirits until, in time, it retired in a peaceful harbor at rest.
“She made her final odyssey
to this calm lake where she will stay
and age in peace and where she may
repose protected from the sea.
Sacred to Castor and his twin, this ship
has made her final trip.”
In a way, the noble ship symbolizes the active Christian life. You sail through all life’s storms with eyes locked on the prize, depending on God to steer you safely to that place of rest. At times you might be unable to see the shoreline but remember that Jesus slept with repose in a boat on the stormy Galilean Sea, and you too can experience peace as the journey unfolds.
“There remains, therefore, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His” (Heb. 4:9-10).
David R. Denny Ph.D