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Kenneth Slessor poem

Kenneth Slessor poem

This is an excerpt from Kenneth Slessor's 1931 poem about Cook's third voyage chronometers:

Five visions of Captain Cook

Top: A timekeeping device from the eighteenth century. The mechanism is mounted in an eight-sided dark wooden case with a lid. The lid has the centre removed so that the mechanism can be seen when the lid is closed. The mechanism is in a cylindrical metal case sitting in the wooden case. Three white clock faces with black hands and markings are visible under a glass covering. The wooden case lid is attached by two brass hinges; a lock aperture is visible on one side of the case body. The entire unit is sitting on a plain white photography studio backdrop. The studio lighting casts soft shadows behind the device. Bottom: A timekeeping device from the eighteenth century. The mechanism is in an eight-sided dark wooden case. The case lid has had the centre removed so that the mechanism clock face is visible when the lid is closed. The white clock face has black markings and hands. The outer ring of the face has black numbers starting with sixty at the twelve position and moving in five second intervals in the clockwise direction. The next ring in has the usual clock hour markings in Roman numerals. A smaller clock face is inside the main face, toward the bottom. It has a single sweep hand and the numbers sixty, fifteen and fourty five in the twelve, three and nine positions. The bottom of this face is obscured by the brass outer ring of the main face.

Two chronometers the captain had,
One by Arnold that ran like mad,
One by Kendal in a walnut case,
Poor devoted creature with a hangdog face.

Arnold always hurried with a crazed click-click
Dancing over Greenwich like a lunatic,
Kendal panted faithfully his watch-dog beat,
Climbing out of Yesterday with sticky little feet.

Arnold choked with appetite to wolf up time,
Madly round the numerals his hands would climb,
His cogs rushed over and his wheels ran miles,
Dragging Captain Cook to the Sandwich Isles.

But Kendal dawdled in the tombstoned past,
With a sentimental prejudice to going fast,
And he thought very often of a haberdasher's door
And a yellow-haired boy who would knock no more.

All through the night-time, clock talked to clock,
In the captain's cabin, tock-tock-tock,
One ticked fast and one ticked slow,
And Time went over them a hundred years ago.

by Kenneth Slessor, 1931.

Top right: Cook carried the Kendall chronometer, K3, on his third Pacific voyage.
Bottom right: Cook carried the Arnold chronometer on his third Pacific voyage.
Courtesy: National Maritime Museum, London.