I had planned on opening this post with the poem "Tam O'Shanter" by Robert Burns.
I have been gently reminded that verse in the Scots dialect is much like music on the bagpipes -- beautiful to those who love it, and incomprehensible to those who don't.
Last night, one of the most beautiful sailing vessels ever to grace the seven seas -- the Cutty Sark-- caught fire. 140 years of "peerless and irreplaceable maritime craftsmanship", to quote Jim Gilchrist of The Scotsman, lost.
In the poem the protagonist, an intoxicated gentleman by the name of Tam O'Shanter, is riding home from the pub when he happens across a coven of witches exuberantly dancing in the moonlight.
One particularly beautiful young witch is wearing only a way-too-short chemise, and during a high point in her dance, our hero forgets himself and belts out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!" (cutty = short, sark = chemise, or nightshirt).
Tam O'Shanter, being mounted on his famous racing mare, takes off like striped-butted ape as the witches give chase.
His faith in his mare is justified as she gets him to safety across running water, but not before Cutty-sark -- leading the chase -- yanks the horse's tail off.
Well named, the clipper Cutty Sark was the greyhound of the sailing ships. At 280 feet long, and a beam of 35 feet, she weighed 963 tons, but carried 32,000 square feet of sail.
She regularly posted incredible times, first in the Shanghai-to-England tea run, and later in the Australia-England wool trade. She made the Australia-to-England run in 67 days, and her best time ever -- 360 nautical miles in 24 hours -- was never matched by any other ship of her size.
I visited the Cutty Sark during one of our layovers in England, and spent half-a-day on her. Absolutely gorgeous little ship, I don't know of anyone who couldn't recognize the speed and grace in her -- even tied up at dock.
There are indications that the fire that ravaged the Cutty Sark may have been deliberately set.
I'm here to tell you, anybody who'd set fire to something that pretty ought to be taken out and shot like a rabid dog.
And hopefully her namesake is waiting to chase that critter around hell.