The invisible lanes that my mind ambles along, which help to frame a piece, usually give no hint of where a poem is going next. Even when I am certain that a poem is going to end with such and such, I am often very surprised to discover that the line I would have ended in the poem with was actually meant to lie somewhere in the middle of the work.
Several years ago, it occurred to me to write a poem about a shipwreck. When I finished the poem, I titled it 1739, to give it's meaning more weight. Then, a few weeks ago, I received a wonderful review of Echoes on Goodreads by Sharon E. Cathcart, author of His Beloved Infidel. In her review, she cited my poem, 1739, as a depiction of the Rooswijk shipwreck, which occurred in 1739.
I was shocked and intrigued ... because I had never before heard of the Rooswijk, nor anything about a 1739 shipwreck! Amazingly, a quick googling of the "Rooswijk Shipwreck" brought up many pages referencing it. I found one particularly wonderful write-up at: http://sedwickcoins.com. I am posting that information, with grateful permission from Daniel Frank Sedwick LLC, here:
Rooswijk, sunk in 1739 off southeast England
Off the southeastern tip of England, just north of the Straits of Dover, the sea hides a most unusual feature known as the Goodwin Sands, where sandbanks appear and disappear unpredictably and move with the tides. Many ships over the centuries have sunk here and silted over, and occasionally one of the wrecks will surface and be discovered. Such is the case with the Rooswijk, a Dutch East Indiaman that foundered on the Goodwin Sands in a storm on December 19, 1739, with all hands and 30 chests of treasure, virtually gone without a trace.
By chance in December, 2004, the sands that had swallowed the wreck of the Rooswijk parted and allowed diver Ken Welling to retrieve two complete chests and hundreds of silver bars. Operating in secrecy, salvage continued in 2005 under the direction of Rex Cowan and in agreement with the Dutch and British governments and is ongoing today. So far, several hundred Mexican silver cobs of the 1720s and early 1730s and transitional “klippes” of 1733-1734, as well as many more hundreds of “pillar dollars” and a smattering of cobs from other mints, have hit the market from this wreck, mostly through auction.
So, having never encountered that information before, how did I get so close to depicting an historic event? Do this ever happen to other poets? I may never know, but I will always wonder whether my muse is privy to a secret encyclopedic cache, or if my poem was merely a casualty of coincidence. This poet is not making any claims to being clairvoyant, nor brilliant. I probably just got lucky...
If you have an interest in historic shipwreck artifacts, you may find them at: http://sedwickcoins.com