Thom Gunn

(29 August 1929 – 25 April 2004 / England)

My Sad Captains


One by one they appear in
the darkness: a few friends, and
a few with historical
names. How late they start to shine!
but before they fade they stand
perfectly embodied, all

the past lapping them like a
cloak of chaos. They were men
who, I thought, lived only to
renew the wasteful force they
spent with each hot convulsion.
They remind me, distant now.

True, they are not at rest yet,
but now they are indeed
apart, winnowed from failures,
they withdraw to an orbit
and turn with disinterested
hard energy, like the stars.


Submitted by Andrew Mayers

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Nick Capozzoli (4/18/2009 10:30:00 PM)

    This 'little' poem has a classical lyrical ethos and brilliance...it stands up to Sappho. The subject, Gunn's recollection of his friends, could easily have lapsed into sentimentality, just as could have Sappho's. Instead, he puts them into an apallingly cold hard orbit in the classical cosmos. (Report) Reply

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