As a poetic drama, The Stone Ship transports readers on a lifetime's voyage of discovery. Jerome, an amnesiac, wonders how he became a monastic porter at Cloistergarth. His search for the lost years becomes a deep well from which all the fragments of his past emerge; the demonized adolescent rescued by the ghost of his admonitory mother; the pius twelve-year-old who relives the passion play with his siblings; and the boy of eight who declares, "Wasn't no ghost came back! Don't know where he is, but my dad isn't dead." And who is the youth of twenty-three, pursuing priestly studies, but badgered by peers, visits the brawling town Magdalene? While Eli, the extortionist, lays his blackmail trap for the youth.
The Sabat nightmare ensues. Whether real or hallucinatory, it delivers at the climax a blow to the stricken conscience of the youth, and a blinding lucidity of recall to the monk.
Later, the boy attempts suicide but is caught in the fisherman's nets. Sent off to the Confessor, he is absolved, and the inevitable Lethean river descends. Upon his embarkation, Jerome knows the immense joy of going home as a son to his Father's good pleasure.