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The Sea -- Barry Cornwall

Guest poem sent in by Mallika Chellappa
(Poem #1352) The Sea
 The sea! the sea! the open sea!
 The blue, the fresh, the ever free!
 Without a mark, without a bound,
 It runneth the earth's wide regions round!
 It plays with the clouds; it mocks the skies;
 Or like a cradled creature lies.

 I'm on the sea! I'm on the sea!
 I am where I would ever be;
 With the blue above, and the blue below,
 And silence wheresoe'er I go;
 If a storm should come and awake the deep,
 What matter? I shall ride and sleep.

 I love, oh, how I love to ride
 On the fierce, foaming, bursting tide,
 When every mad wave drowns the moon,
 Or whistles aloft his tempest tune,
 And tells how goeth the world below,
 And why the sou'west blasts do blow.

 I never was on the dull, tame shore,
 But I loved the great sea more and more,
 And backward flew to her billowy breast,
 Like a bird that seeketh its mother's nest;
 And a mother she was, and is, to me;
 For I was born on the open sea!

 The waves were white, and red the morn,
 In the noisy hour when I was born;
 And the whale it whistled, the porpoise rolled,
 And the dolphins bared their backs of gold;
 And never was heard such an outcry wild
 As welcomed to life the ocean-child!

 I've lived since then, in calm and strife,
 Full fifty summers, a sailor's life,
 With wealth to spend and a power to range,
 But never have sought nor sighed for change;
 And Death, whenever he comes to me,
 Shall come on the wild, unbounded sea!
-- Barry Cornwall
          (Bryan Waller Proctor)

Another gem from schooldays. No need to say more - except
a disagreement about the "outcry wild". My teacher insisted
it was the child's first cry, but I like to think it was the
sea creatures welcoming him.

Oil tankers and whalers have since taken their toll of the sea,
but Nature has a way of having the last word.


38 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Daniel Bennett said...


Just a note to say that I agree with you on your interpretation of "outcry
wild." With the reference to the whale's whistle and the other creatures and
that it was a welcoming cry (normally given to one arriving, not from the
arrivee) I think your opinion that the sea and its creatures are doing the
welcoming is sound.

Funny, how a literary dispute with an authority can stay in one's mind over
the years.


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Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! My mother only managed to quote to me the first few lines of this poem, not long before she died (in 1984).I have always wondered how the whole poem goes.I just now thought to type the words I can remember---and here we are! what a beautiful piece of work.
And thank God for the internet.

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