Poetry of the Sea: Part 1

Poetry of the Sea: Part 1

by BigJules

They that go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters. These men see the works of the Lord; and his wonders in the deep…
— Psalm 107

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Some of the English language’s finest poetry has been written about the sea. Here’s five of my favourites, some are excerpts due to length. More next month!

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Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage  by Lord Byron
      Dark-heaving, boundless, endless, and sublime.
    The image of Eternity…
Full Fathom Five  by William Shakespeare (Tempest)
      Full fathom five they father lies;
      Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea change
Into something rich and strange.

Sea nymphs hourly ring his knell;
Ding dong.
Hark! Now I hear them –
Ding dong, bell!

Crossing the Bar  by Lord Tennyson

Alfred Lord Tennyson

      Sunset and evening star,
      And one clear call for me!
      And may there be no moaning of the bar,
      When I put to sea

But such a tides as moving seems asleep,
Too full of sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home

Twilight and evening bell
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell
When I embark

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar

Sea Fever  by John Masefield
      I must down to the seas again,
      to the lonely sea and the sky
      and all I ask is a tall ship,
      and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song
and the white sails shaking,
And the grey mist in the sea’s face,
and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again,
for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day
with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume,
and the seagulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again,
to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way
where the wind’s like a whetted knife

And all I ask is a merry yarn
From a laughing fellow rover,
and quiet sleep and a sweet dream
when ere the long trip’s over

Rime of the Ancient Mariner  by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

      The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
      The furrow followed free;
      We were the first that ever burst
      Into that silent sea.

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
’Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea !

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion ;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

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Do you have a favourite sea poem? I’d love to hear from you.