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TO-DAY a rude brief recitative,

Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or shipsignal,

Of unnamed heroes in the ships-of waves spreading and

spreading far as the eye can reach,

Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing,
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations,

Fitful, like a surge.

Of sea-captains young or old, and the mates, and of all intrepid sailors,

Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise nor death dismay,

Picked sparingly without noise by thee, old ocean, chosen by thee,

Thou sea that pickest and cullest the race in time, and unitest nations,

Suckled by thee, old husky nurse, embodying thee,

Indomitable, untamed as thee.

(Ever the heroes on water or on land, by ones or twos appearing,

Ever the stock preserved and never lost, though rare, enough

for seed preserved.)


Flaunt out, O sea, your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out visible as ever the various ship-signals!

But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man one flag above all the rest,

A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death,

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Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates, And all that went down doing their duty,

Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains young or old,

A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o'er all brave sailors,

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I WILL go back to the great sweet mother,-
Mother and lover of men, the Sea.

I will go down to her, I and none other,

Close with her, kiss her, and mix her with me;
Cling to her, strive with her, hold her fast;
O fair white mother, in days long past
Born without sister, born without brother,
Set free my soul as thy soul is free.

O fair green-girdled mother of mine,

Sea, that art clothed with the sun and the rain,
Thy sweet hard kisses are strong like wine,

Thy large embraces are keen like pain.
Save me and hide me with all thy waves,
Find me one grave of thy thousand graves,
Those pure cold populous graves of thine,

Wrought without hand in a world without stain.

I shall sleep, and move with the moving ships,
Change as the winds change, veer in the tide;
My lips will feast on the foam of thy lips,

I shall rise with thy rising, with thee subside;
Sleep, and not know if she be, if she were,
Filled full with life to the eyes and hair.
As a rose is fulfilled to the rose-leaf tips

With splendid summer and perfume and pride.

This woven raiment of nights and days,

Were it once cast off and unwound from me, Naked and glad would I walk in thy ways,

Alive and aware of thy waves and thee; Clear of the whole world, hidden at home, Clothed with the green, and crowned with the foam, A pulse of the life of thy straits and bays,

A vein in the heart of the streams of the Sea.

Fair mother, fed with the lives of men,

Thou art subtle and cruel of heart, men say; Thou hast taken, and shalt not render again; Thou art full of thy dead, and cold as they. But death is the worst that comes of thee; Thou art fed with our dead, O Mother, O Sea, But when hast thou fed on our hearts? or when Having given us love, hast thou taken away?

O tender-hearted, O perfect lover,

Thy lips are bitter, and sweet thine heart.
The hopes that hurt and the dreams that hover,
Shall they not vanish away and apart?

But thou, thou art sure, thou art older than earth;
Thou art strong for death and fruitful of birth;
Thy depths conceal and thy gulfs discover;
From the first thou wert; in the end thou art.
Algernon Charles Swinburne [1837-1909]


From "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"

THERE is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel

What I can ne'er express, yet can not all conceal.

The Sea


Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin, his control Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain A shadow of man's ravage, save his own, When, for a moment, like a drop of rain, He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

His steps are not upon thy paths, thy fields
Are not a spoil for him,-thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth's destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send'st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his Gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,

And dashest him again to earth:—there let him lay.

The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake
And monarchs tremble in their capitals,
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee and arbiter of war,-
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armada's pride or spoils of Trafalgar.

Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee;— Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they? Thy waters washed them power while they were free, And many a tyrant since; their shores obey The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay Has dried up realms to deserts:-not so thou; Unchangeable save to thy wild waves' play, Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow; Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,

Calm or convulsed,-in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime

Dark-heaving;-boundless, endless, and sublime,—
The image of Eternity,-the throne

Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime The monsters of the deep are made; each zone Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward. From a boy
I wantoned with thy breakers, they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror, 'twas a pleasing fear;
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane,-

-as I do here.

George Gordon Byron [1788-1824]


Ir keeps eternal whisperings around

Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell Gluts twice ten thousand caverns, till the spell Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound. Often 'tis in such gentle temper found,

That scarcely will the very smallest shell

Be moved for days from whence it sometime fell, When last the winds of heaven were unbound. Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vexed and tired, Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;

Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude, Or fed too much with cloying melody,—

Sit ye near some old cavern's mouth, and brood Until ye start, as if the sea-nymphs quired!

John Keats [1795-1821]

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