I never told the buried gold

Bas relief of Atropos cutting the thread of life
Background Image: Bas relief of Atropos cutting the thread of life

Unusual poem in that it has a narrative and she even addresses the reader – or at least whomever is listening to this tale of Captain Kidd. Her use of the image of the setting sun mixed with the buried treasure as well as the thread of fate being cut is very clever and she even manages to hint at the Berg Adder, whose taxonomic name is taken from Atropos, as well as a brake which, according to the OED is a name for a type of bark trimming shears used when making baskets.

My favorite stanza is the first one in how the setting sun is compared to gold – you can feel the warm tropical air, smell the ocean salt, hear the waves against the ship, and see the golden sun glinting off the water like so many thousands of pieces of scattered gold. Yet there is an ethereal quality to this image, an unreal aspect which ties into this legend of buried treasure just being a myth. This dreaminess also ties into the final stanza where a “shrewd” person (probably the Earl of Bellomont) lures Kidd back to civilization with the promise of clemency, but this too was an illusion and Kidd was arrested.

The second stanza is odd in that she speaks of how close Kidd is to the storyteller and the listener of the poem, “He stood as near / As stood you here”, and the repetition of “stood” feels a little awkward. She again speaks of closeness with her describing there being only a “pace” “between”, but I don’t feel it’s clear what she is referring to. However, the image of the snake as a trickster is a nice image and this snake stands in for the shears of “Atropos” who will cut his thread and end his life. The snake could also refer to Kidd himself who has turned pirate and thus perhaps what Emily is trying to say is that even if someone is close to you they could easily turn to evil or have evil come between you and them.

The third stanza pretty much just mentions the buried treasure, but her use of the word “honest” seems almost funny because we know he stole all this “wondrous booty”.

The fourth stanza refers to if he will or won’t “reveal” “the secret” of the treasure and it can also perhaps refer to Bellomont’s deception since he was luring Kidd back with the false promise of his being cleared of charges. The final line of if he will “sudden sail” illustrates the possibility that Kidd will “sudden sail” off at the slightest hint of treachery.

The final stanza refers back to the first with the image of time having run out for Kidd. As the sun is setting in the first stanza we get the impression that the day (life) is ending for Kidd. The use of the word “divide” is particularly well used because it relates to how the thread of life may be “bisect” (cut) and this his life ends, but it also refers to the dividing up of the buried treasure with Bellomont in exchange for his freedom (additional life). Thus Atropos will “decide” which fate will play out and, as we know, Kidd was betrayed and his thread was cut.