Video of the poem and the song “Nearer My God to Thee”
news paper report of the New York times of 28th April 1912 click here>>>
THE WRECK OF THE TITANIC – BENJAMIN PECK KEITH – Note
As the title suggests this is a poem about one of the greatest tragedies of sea – the wreck of the titanic on 14th April, 1912. It collided with an iceberg and sank into the depths of the Atlantic ocean. However, this tragedy exposed some of the greatest act of courage and heroism of a couple of people, to be particular Captain Smith and the crew.
Captain Smith, the commander of the ship, not even for one moment thought of saving his life. He stood on the bridge and told his crew that they were British and they should rember their country and should do their duties. Captain Smith and his crew remained in the ship while it was sinking to the depths of the Atlantic. According to the poet there is no scene like ‘so awfully grand’.
The major theme discussed here is that of courage, fate, shicpwreck. Emotion of patriotism, valour are evoked while reading the poem. Language of the poem is simple, direct and has a musical quality as its final words rhyme.
“THE WRECK OF THE TITANIC” is one of the famous poems of BENJAMIN PECK KEITH, an American poet. It is written as an elegy in memory of the heroes of the ship Titanic which sank on 14th April 1912. The poet recollects the heroes of the sinking ship and says that their heroism was greater than that of the famous heroes of history.
The poem begins with the comparison of the ship to “a poem of iron and steel.” The ship started its first and last voyage from Southampton. Neither the passengers nor those people, who were gathered on shore, could predict her fate. She was “the largest and grandest of all ships”
When the ship reached the North Atlantic Ocean, she collided with “a towering mountain of ice” and began to sink rapidly. Now the poet remembers the heroes of this ship.
Captain Smith, the commander of the ship, called all the crew and asked them “Be British”, to be brave. They were the bravest men of the world as they did not try to save their skins but gave preference to “the women and children first.”
When the lifeboats were lowered and sent away, the bandsmen of the ship began to play “Nearer my God to Thee” to give comfort to those who are left in the ship. The bandsmen were brave as they continued to play and comfort the people even when they were facing their own death.
In the last part of the poem the poet compares the bravery of these people with that of the heroes of world history like the heroes of Trafalgar, Alamo, Waterloo, The charge of “The light Brigade and Jim Bludso’s act on the “The Prairie Belle”. The poet says the courage of the heroes of the Titanic is more “noble and true” and “sound sublime”. The courage and bravery of these people will be remembered forever.
The poem has got an elegiac mood and the rhythm of the poem is that of a ship moving through ocean. The poet uses a fixed rhyme scheme throughout the poem, i.e., aa, bb. With the use of very simple words the poet creates many wonderful word pictures in this poem, like the captain standing on the bridge and calling out, the bandsmen playing, etc. The poet has used many poetic devices like metaphor, personification, etc in this poem. The beauty of ship is “a poem of iron and steel” according the poet.
The poem also gives insight to the management of a crisis and the need of heroism.
thomas a a
Ghss kattoor, Irinjalakuda