Poetry of the Sea: Part 2

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

Some of the English language’s finest poetry has been written about the sea. Here’s some more of my favourites, some are excerpts due to length. And thank you for all your posts and emails about sea poetry that has touched you in some way! Keep ’em coming…

— ♥ —

The Kiss of a Seaman   17th Century
    When first I chanc’t to be among them
    I was belov’d of divers young men
    And with a modest mild behaviour
    That did intreat my love and favour

    But this I learned from my mother
    The kiss of a Seaman’s worth two of another

    Blare gentlemen of rank and fashion
    That live, most richly in the nation
    Have woo’d and su’d, as brave as may be
    That I might have been a pretty lady

    Love’s fiery beams I cannot smother
    The kiss of a Seaman’s worth two of another!

 

Shipwreck  by William Falconer
    Again she plunges! hark! a second shock
    Bilges the splitting vessel on the rock;
    Down on the vale of death, with dismal cries;
    The fated victims shuddering cast their eyes

    In wild despair; while yet another stroke
    With strong convulsion rends the solid oak;
    Ah Heavens! —behold her crashing ribs divide!
    She loosens, parts, and spreads in ruin o’er the tide

 

The Boy stood on the Burning Deck (Casabianca)   by Felicia Dorothea Hemans
    The boy stood on the burning deck
    Whence all but he had fled;
    The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
    Shone round him o’er the dead.

    Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
    As born to rule the storm;
    A creature of heroic blood,
    A proud, though childlike form.

    The flames roll’d on…he would not go
    Without his father’s word;
    That father, faint in death below,
    His voice no longer heard.

    He call’d aloud…”Say, father,say
    If yet my task is done!”
    He knew not that the chieftain lay
    Unconscious of his son.

    “Speak, father!” once again he cried
    “If I may yet be gone!”
    And but the booming shots replied,
    And fast the flames roll’d on.

    Upon his brow he felt their breath,
    And in his waving hair,
    And looked from that lone post of death,
    In still yet brave despair;

    And shouted but one more aloud,
    “My father, must I stay?”
    While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud
    The wreathing fires made way,

    They wrapt the ship in splendour wild, The boy stood on the burning deck
    Whence all but he had fled;
    The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
    Shone round him o’er the dead.

    Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
    As born to rule the storm;
    A creature of heroic blood,
    A proud, though childlike form.

    The flames roll’d on…he would not go
    Without his father’s word;
    That father, faint in death below,
    His voice no longer heard.

    He call’d aloud…”Say, father,say
    If yet my task is done!”
    He knew not that the chieftain lay
    Unconscious of his son.

    “Speak, father!” once again he cried
    “If I may yet be gone!”
    And but the booming shots replied,
    And fast the flames roll’d on.

    Upon his brow he felt their breath,
    And in his waving hair,
    And looked from that lone post of death,
    In still yet brave despair;

    And shouted but one more aloud,
    “My father, must I stay?”
    While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud
    They caught the flag on high,
    And stream’d above the gallant child,
    Like banners in the sky.

    There came a burst of thunder sound…
    The boy-oh! where was he?
    Ask of the winds that far around
    With fragments strewed the sea.

    With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
    That well had borne their part;
    But the noblest thing which perished there
    Was that young and faithful heart.

On the Sea   by John Keats
John Keats

John Keats

    It 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! 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!

 

Roadways   by John Masefield
    Roadways by John Masefield
    One road leads to London,
    One road leads to Wales,
    My road leads me seawards
    To the white dipping sails.

    One road leads to the river,
    And it goes singing slow;
    My road leads to shipping,
    Where the bronzed sailors go.

    John Masefield

    John Masefield

    Leads me, lures me, calls me
    To salt green tossing sea;
    A road without earth’s road-dust
    Is the right road for me.

    A wet road heaving, shining,
    And wild with seagull’s cries,
    A mad salt sea-wind blowing
    The salt spray in my eyes.

    My road calls me, lures me
    West, east, south, and north;
    Most roads lead men homewards,
    My road leads me forth.

    To add more miles to the tally
    Of grey miles left behind,
    In quest of that one beauty
    God put me here to find.

 

Ye Mariners of England   by Thomas Campbell
    Ye Mariners of England
    That guard our native seas;
    Whose flag has braved a thousand years;
    The battle and the breeze!
    Your glorious standard launch again
    To match another foe
    And sweep through the deep,
    While the stormy winds do blow
    While the battle rages loud and long,
    And the stormy winds do blow…

    The meteor flag of England
    Shall yet terrific burn;
    Till danger’s troubled night depart;
    And the star of peace return.
    Then, then, ye ocean warriors,
    Our song and feast shall flow
    To the fame of your name,
    When the storm has ceased to blow;
    When the fiery light is heard no more,
    And the storm has ceased to blow.


[ Part 1 ]

Copyright notices
Keats image: William Hilton the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Masefield image: By Coburn, Alvin Langdon, 1882-1966 — Photographer (NYPL) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Every effort is made to honour copyright but if we have inadvertently published an image with missing or incorrect attribution, on being informed of this, we undertake to delete the image or add a correct credit notice

8 Comments on “Poetry of the Sea: Part 2

  1. Pingback: Poetry of the Sea | allthingsnautical

  2. Thank you, Jules. I will add “The Navy Hymn”, which probably is not the true name…which ends “For those in peril on the sea”. In honor of my Dad, USNR, 1936 – 1945, who joined when he was 15, when the US Navy was not checking ages carefully, who served the last full US crew of USS Hunt, summer, 1940, a ship that became famous as HMS Broadway; he went on active duty about January, 1941 as an aviation machinist mate, an “airdale”, in the Aircraft Carrier Training Group, Norfolk NAS; assigned to an escort carrier during the Philipines campaign and the capture of Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Died two weeks ago. We located his leather aviator’s “helmet”, his silk flying scarf, a “dress blue” and a “dress white” uniform. Dad would mention, when questioned, his cousins and friends who were killed. Mostly he joked about “ground loops” and near misses and a pilot who would bashfully ask to be invited to parties with the enlisted men. The pilot, a LTCDR and Midway hero, would take his hat off and sail it into a corner, meaning, “I’m not an officer this evening”, something like the behavior of our favorite former wig-maker about 150 years earlier.

  3. Pingback: Poetry of the Sea: Part 2 | Nighthawk News

  4. Thanks for all the great poetry. I especially liked THE BOY STOOD ON THE BURNING DECK.
    Regards
    Isabelle McEwen

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