After the Flood

ribe cathedral

One of the seven stone mosaics Carl-Henning Pedersen constructed in Ribe Cathedral in South-west Jutland in the years 1982-87 is called "Efter Syndfloden"/"After the Flood". It depicts three "scenes from the Bible": a dove with an leaf in its beak (at the top); the "Ark", a vessel whose bow and three masts are typical of a Viking ship (in the middle); and Noah, in a state of drunkenness, being covered by two of his sons with a blanket made of squares knitted in different colours, i.e. a traditional Danish one (at the bottom). The mosaics display no other such instances of adaptation. The artist’s use of it here highlights the fact that south-west Jutland is very vulnerable to severe flooding.

Home from sea the Viking, Bror,
   well tired of rape and loot
yet stubborn in his liking for
   distilled fermented fruit,
embarked upon a winery.
   His kitchen, lounge and hall
were soon one big refinery,
   but, thinking it too small,
he filled his father’s granary
   with twelve enormous vats,
and, quite the careful planner, he
   went out collecting cats.
Like any normal skipper, he
   had others tread the grape.
He made the vat walls slippery
   to cut off their escape.
When word reached Bror his feline corps
   was fouling up the brew,
he had to make a beeline for
   a different kind of crew.
He gathered all the animals
   to test their aptitude,
but multiplying mandibles
   meant shortages of food.
One afternoon, in pouring rain,
   the Viking clan secured
the granary for storing grain.
   The wine, not yet matured,
was siphoned off by elephants,
   from trunk to trunk to trunk,
and thrown out to the elements
   instead of being drunk.
This fresh disaster stung remorse
   in Bror. He went and fed
each tortured cat and hungry horse,
   gave every dog a bed,
and turned to writing histories,
   intending to impart                    
the greatest of life’s mysteries,
   a meek and thankful heart.
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin

If you have any comments on this poem, Duncan Gillies MacLaurin would be pleased to hear from you.