THE SS NORMANDIE
Confiscated from Vichy France, she sat
In the Hudson for months until the fire.
The smoke was so thick over midtown, rumors
Spread the Japanese had attacked New York.
The old transatlantic style fulfilled itself
In her Art Deco and Streamline Moderne.
She looked like a giant clipper, narrow
As a blade in Cassandre’s poster, black hull,
White decks, red belts at waterline and bow.
France herself seemed docked off 42nd Street,
A windy boulevard of flags, a hall
Of mirrors larger than Versailles filled
With families, couples, aloof aristocrats,
Loners in tuxedos staring at the waves,
Card players in capes and gowns, a score of chefs,
Waiters staggering across the Atlantic,
Bound west for Manhattan one more voyage,
A wine cellar the size of the Morgan
Library, an orchestra floating beside
Confounded seabirds strutting on lifeboats
The Francophiles are gone,
Belloc, Repplier, Wallace Stevens, who loved
France forever, until death, loved her
For what she had been, not what she’d become.
The old Thomists are gone, Maritain, Gilson,
Marcel, who left Vichy on the Normandie
And watched her towed for scrap down the Hudson.
— Lawrence Dugan
This poem appears in the May 23, 2016, issue of National Review.