Guest Blog: John Donne’s ‘A Burnt Ship’

In this guest blog post, Christopher Hart provides a reading of a short and interesting poem by John Donne, ‘A Burnt Ship’.

Out of a fired ship, which by no way
But drowning could be rescued from the flame,
Some men leap’d forth, and ever as they came
Near the foes’ ships, did by their shot decay;
So all were lost, which in the ship were found,
They in the sea being burnt, they in the burnt ship drowned.

This poem is a bitterly ironic reminder of one of the horrors of naval warfare in the age of the sail; if a ship was set on fire, it was almost certainly going to sink. Sailors who leapt from the ship either drowned or were killed by the enemy who lit the ship on fire in the first place (‘near the foes’ ships, did by their shot decay’). All who were…

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