My Sad Captains

By Thom Gunn 1929–2004 Thom Gunn
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 that they are indeed   
apart, winnowed from failures,   
they withdraw to an orbit
and turn with disinterested   
hard energy, like the stars.

Thom Gunn, “My Sad Captains” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by Thom Gunn. Used by permission of Noonday Press, a division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.

Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1994)

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Poet Thom Gunn 1929–2004

Subjects Relationships, Living, Death

Poetic Terms Syllabic, Elegy

 Thom  Gunn

Biography

An English poet who has been a long-time resident of California, Thom Gunn combines a respect for traditional poetic forms with an interest in popular topics, such as the Hell's Angels, LSD, and homosexuality. While Gunn wrote most of his early verses in iambic pentameter—a phase when his ambition was "to be the John Donne of the twentieth century"—his more recent works assume a variety of forms, including syllabic stanzas and . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Living, Death

Poetic Terms Syllabic, Elegy

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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