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The Mariner’s Hymn

by Caroline Bowles Southey

Launch thy bark, mariner! Christian, God speed thee!
Let loose the rudder-bands! good angels lead thee!
Set thy sails warily; tempests will come;
Steer thy course steadily! Christian, steer home!

Look to the weather-bow, breakers are round thee!
Let fall the plummet now — shallows may ground thee.
Reef in the fore-sail there! hold the helm fast!
So — let the vessel ware! there swept the blast.

What of the night, watchman? What of the night?
“Cloudy — all quiet — no land yet — all’s right.”
Be wakeful, be vigilant! — danger may be
At an hour when all seemeth securest to thee.

How! gains the leak so fast? Clean out the hold—
Hoist up thy merchandise — heave out thy gold!
There — let the ingots go! — now the ship rights;
Hurrah! the harbour’s near — lo, the red lights!

Slacken not sail yet at inlet or island;
Straight for the beacon steer — straight for the high land
Crowd all thy canvas on, cut through the foam —
Christian! cast anchor now — Heaven is thy home.

You can read more about Caroline Bowles Southey here:


A Channel Crossing


Forth from Calais, at dawn of night, when sunset summer on autumn shone,
Fared the steamer alert and loud through seas whence only the sun was gone:
Soft and sweet as the sky they smiled, and bade man welcome: a dim sweet hour
Gleamed and whispered in wind and sea, and heaven was fair as a field in flower,
Stars fulfilled the desire of the darkling world as with music: the star-bright air
Made the face of the sea, if aught may make the face of the sea, more fair.
Whence came change? Was the sweet night weary of rest? What anguish awoke in the dark?
Sudden, sublime, the strong storm spake: we heard the thunders as hounds that bark.
Lovelier if aught may be lovelier than stars, we saw the lightnings exalt the sky,
Living and lustrous and rapturous as love that is born but to quicken and lighten and die.
Heaven’s own heart at its highest of delight found utterance in music and semblance in fire:
Thunder on thunder exulted, rejoicing to live and to satiate the night’s desire.

And the night was alive and anhungered of life as a tiger from toils cast free:
And a rapture of rage made joyous the spirit and strength of the soul of the sea.
All the weight of the wind bore down on it, freighted with death for fraught:
And the keen waves kindled and quickened as things transfigured or things distraught.
And madness fell on them laughing and leaping; and madness came on the wind:
And the might and the light and the darkness of storm were as storm in the heart of Ind.
Such glory, such terror, such passion, as lighten and harrow the far fierce East,
Rang, shone, spake, shuddered around us: the night was an altar with death for priest.
The channel that sunders England from shores where never was man born free
Was clothed with the likeness and thrilled with the strength and the wrath of a tropic sea.
As a wild steed ramps in rebellion, and rears till it swerves from a backward fall,
The strong ship struggled and reared, and her deck was upright as a sheer cliff’s wall.
Stern and prow plunged under, alternate: a glimpse, a recoil, a breath,
And she sprang as the life in a god made man would spring at the throat of death.
Three glad hours, and it seemed not an hour of supreme and supernal joy,
Filled full with delight that revives in remembrance a sea-bird’s heart in a boy.
For the central crest of the night was cloud that thundered and flamed, sublime
As the splendour and song of the soul everlasting that quickens the pulse of time.
The glory beholden of man in a vision, the music of light overheard,
The rapture and radiance of battle, the life that abides in the fire of a word,
In the midmost heaven enkindled, was manifest far on the face of the sea,
And the rage in the roar of the voice of the waters was heard but when heaven breathed free.
Far eastward, clear of the covering of cloud, the sky laughed out into light
From the rims of the storm to the sea’s dark edge with flames that were flowerlike and white.
The leaping and luminous blossoms of live sheet lightning that laugh as they fade
From the cloud’s black base to the black wave’s brim rejoiced in the light they made.
Far westward, throned in a silent sky, where life was in lustrous tune,
Shone, sweeter and surer than morning or evening, the steadfast smile of the moon.
The limitless heaven that enshrined them was lovelier than dreams may behold, and deep
As life or as death, revealed and transfigured, may shine on the soul through sleep.
All glories of toil and of triumph and passion and pride that it yearns to know
Bore witness there to the soul of its likeness and kinship, above and below.
The joys of the lightnings, the songs of the thunders, the strong sea’s labour and rage,
Were tokens and signs of the war that is life and is joy for the soul to wage.
No thought strikes deeper or higher than the heights and the depths that the night made bare,
Illimitable, infinite, awful and joyful, alive in the summit of air—
Air stilled and thrilled by the tempest that thundered between its reign and the sea’s,
Rebellious, rapturous, and transient as faith or as terror that bows men’s knees.
No love sees loftier and fairer the form of its godlike vision in dreams
Than the world shone then, when the sky and the sea were as love for a breath’s length seems—
One utterly, mingled and mastering and mastered and laughing with love that subsides
As the glad mad night sank panting and satiate with storm, and released the tides.
In the dense mid channel the steam-souled ship hung hovering, assailed and withheld
As a soul born royal, if life or if death be against it, is thwarted and quelled.
As the glories of myriads of glowworms in lustrous grass on a boundless lawn
Were the glories of flames phosphoric that made of the water a light like dawn.
A thousand Phosphors, a thousand Hespers, awoke in the churning sea,
And the swift soft hiss of them living and dying was clear as a tune could be;
As a tune that is played by the fingers of death on the keys of life or of sleep,
Audible alway alive in the storm, too fleet for a dream to keep:
Too fleet, too sweet for a dream to recover and thought to remember awake:
Light subtler and swifter than lightning, that whispers and laughs in the live storm’s wake,
In the wild bright wake of the storm, in the dense loud heart of the labouring hour,
A harvest of stars by the storm’s hand reaped, each fair as a star-shaped flower.
And sudden and soft as the passing of sleep is the passing of tempest seemed
When the light and the sound of it sank, and the glory was gone as a dream half dreamed.
The glory, the terror, the passion that made of the midnight a miracle, died,
Not slain at a stroke, nor in gradual reluctance abated of power and of pride;
With strong swift subsidence, awful as power that is wearied of power upon earth,
As a God that were wearied of power upon heaven, and were fain of a new God’s birth,
The might of the night subsided: the tyranny kindled in darkness fell:
And the sea and the sky put off them the rapture and radiance of heaven and of hell.
The waters, heaving and hungering at heart, made way, and were wellnigh fain,
For the ship that had fought them, and wrestled, and revelled in labour, to cease from her pain.
And an end was made of it: only remembrance endures of the glad loud strife;
And the sense that a rapture so royal may come not again in the passage of life.

You can read more about Algernon Charles Swinburne here:

On the Sea

By 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 where it sometime fell.
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh, ye! who have your eyeballs 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!

You can read more about John Keats here:

Crossing the Bar

by 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 out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for 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.

You can read more about Alfred, Lord Tennyson here:,_Lord_Tennyson

On the South Coast

by Algernon Charles Swinburne


Hills and valleys where April rallies his radiant squadron of flowers and birds,
Steep strange beaches and lustrous reaches of fluctuant sea that the land engirds,
Fields and downs that the sunrise crowns with life diviner than lives in words,
Day by day of resurgent May salute the sun with sublime acclaim,
Change and brighten with hours that lighten and darken, girdled with cloud or flame;
Earth’s fair face in alternate grace beams, blooms, and lowers, and is yet the same.
Twice each day the divine sea’s play makes glad with glory that comes and goes
Field and street that her waves keep sweet, when past the bounds of their old repose,
Fast and fierce in renewed reverse, the foam-flecked estuary ebbs and flows.
Broad and bold through the stays of old staked fast with trunks of the wildwood tree,
Up from shoreward, impelled far forward, by marsh and meadow, by lawn and lea,
Inland still at her own wild will swells, rolls, and revels the urging sea.
Strong as time, and as faith sublime, clothed round with shadows of hopes and fears,
Nights and morrows, and joys and sorrows, alive with passion of prayers and tears,
Stands the shrine that has seen decline eight hundred waxing and waning years.
Tower set square to the storms of air and change of season that glooms and glows,
Wall and roof of it tempest-proof, and equal ever to suns and snows,
Bright with riches of radiant niches and pillars smooth as a straight stem grows.
Aisle and nave that the whelming wave of time has whelmed not or touched or neared,
Arch and vault without stain or fault, by hands of craftsmen we know not reared,
Time beheld them, and time was quelled; and change passed by them as one that feared.
Time that flies as a dream, and dies as dreams that die with the sleep they feed,
Here alone in a garb of stone incarnate stands as a god indeed,
Stern and fair, and of strength to bear all burdens mortal to man’s frail seed.
Men and years are as leaves or tears that storm or sorrow is fain to shed:
These go by as the winds that sigh, and none takes note of them quick or dead:
Time, whose breath is their birth and death, folds here his pinions, and bows his head.
Still the sun that beheld begun the work wrought here of unwearied hands
Sees, as then, though the Red King’s men held ruthless rule over lawless lands,
Stand their massive design, impassive, pure and proud as a virgin stands.
Statelier still as the years fulfil their count, subserving her sacred state,
Grows the hoary grey church whose story silence utters and age makes great:
Statelier seems it than shines in dreams the face unveiled of unvanquished fate.
Fate, more high than the star-shown sky, more deep than waters unsounded, shines
Keen and far as the final star on souls that seek not for charms or signs;
Yet more bright is the love-shown light of men’s hands lighted in songs or shrines.
Love and trust that the grave’s deep dust can soil not, neither may fear put out,
Witness yet that their record set stands fast, though years be as hosts in rout,
Spent and slain; but the signs remain that beat back darkness and cast forth doubt.
Men that wrought by the grace of thought and toil things goodlier than praise dare trace,
Fair as all that the world may call most fair, save only the sea’s own face,
Shrines or songs that the world’s change wrongs not, live by grace of their own gift’s grace.
Dead, their names that the night reclaims alive, their works that the day relumes
Sink and stand, as in stone and sand engraven: none may behold their tombs:
Nights and days shall record their praise while here this flower of their grafting blooms.
Flower more fair than the sun-thrilled air bids laugh and lighten and wax and rise,
Fruit more bright than the fervent light sustains with strength from the kindled skies,
Flower and fruit that the deathless root of man’s love rears though the man’s name dies.
Stately stands it, the work of hands unknown of: statelier, afar and near,
Rise around it the heights that bound our landward gaze from the seaboard here;
Downs that swerve and aspire, in curve and change of heights that the dawn holds dear.
Dawn falls fair on the grey walls there confronting dawn, on the low green lea,
Lone and sweet as for fairies’ feet held sacred, silent and strange and free,
Wild and wet with its rills; but yet more fair falls dawn on the fairer sea.
Eastward, round by the high green bound of hills that fold the remote fields in,
Strive and shine on the low sea-line fleet waves and beams when the days begin;
Westward glow, when the days burn low, the sun that yields and the stars that win.
Rose-red eve on the seas that heave sinks fair as dawn when the first ray peers;
Winds are glancing from sunbright Lancing to Shoreham, crowned with the grace of years;
Shoreham, clad with the sunset, glad and grave with glory that death reveres.
Death, more proud than the kings’ heads bowed before him, stronger than all things, bows
Here his head: as if death were dead, and kingship plucked from his crownless brows,
Life hath here such a face of cheer as change appals not and time avows.
Skies fulfilled with the sundown, stilled and splendid, spread as a flower that spreads,
Pave with rarer device and fairer than heaven’s the luminous oyster-beds,
Grass-embanked, and in square plots ranked, inlaid with gems that the sundown sheds.
Squares more bright and with lovelier light than heaven that kindled it shines with shine
Warm and soft as the dome aloft, but heavenlier yet than the sun’s own shrine:
Heaven is high, but the water-sky lit here seems deeper and more divine.
Flowers on flowers, that the whole world’s bowers may show not, here may the sunset show,
Lightly graven in the waters paven with ghostly gold by the clouds aglow:
Bright as love is the vault above, but lovelier lightens the wave below.
Rosy grey, or as fiery spray full-plumed, or greener than emerald, gleams
Plot by plot as the skies allot for each its glory, divine as dreams
Lit with fire of appeased desire which sounds the secret of all that seems;
Dreams that show what we fain would know, and know not save by the grace of sleep,
Sleep whose hands have removed the bands that eyes long waking and fain to weepFeel fast bound on them–
light around them strange, and darkness above them steep.
Yet no vision that heals division of love from love, and renews awhile
Life and breath in the lips where death has quenched the spirit of speech and smile,
Shows on earth, or in heaven’s mid mirth, where no fears enter or doubts defile,
Aught more fair than the radiant air and water here by the twilight wed,
Here made one by the waning sun whose last love quickens to rosebright red
Half the crown of the soft high down that rears to northward its wood-girt head.
There, when day is at height of sway, men’s eyes who stand, as we oft have stood,
High where towers with its world of flowers the golden spinny that flanks the wood,
See before and around them shore and seaboard glad as their gifts are good.
Higher and higher to the north aspire the green smooth-swelling unending downs;
East and west on the brave earth’s breast glow girdle-jewels of gleaming towns;
Southward shining, the lands declining subside in peace that the sea’s light crowns.
Westward wide in its fruitful pride the plain lies lordly with plenteous grace;
Fair as dawn’s when the fields and lawns desire her glitters the glad land’s face:
Eastward yet is the sole sign set of elder days and a lordlier race.
Down beneath us afar, where seethe in wilder weather the tides aflow,
Hurled up hither and drawn down thither in quest of rest that they may not know,
Still as dew on a flower the blue broad stream now sleeps in the fields below.
Mild and bland in the fair green land it smiles, and takes to its heart the sky;
Scarce the meads and the fens, the reeds and grasses, still as they stand or lie,
Wear the palm of a statelier calm than rests on waters that pass them by.
Yet shall these, when the winds and seas of equal days and coequal nights
Rage, rejoice, and uplift a voice whose sound is even as a sword that smites,
Felt and heard as a doomsman’s word from seaward reaches to landward heights,
Lift their heart up, and take their part of triumph, swollen and strong with rage,
Rage elate with desire and great with pride that tempest and storm assuage;
So their chime in the ear of time has rung from age to rekindled age.
Fair and dear is the land’s face here, and fair man’s work as a man’s may be:
Dear and fair as the sunbright air is here the record that speaks him free;
Free by birth of a sacred earth, and regent ever of all the sea.

Theodore Watts was Algernon Charles Swinburne’s great friend and companion, with whom he lived for many years in Putney Hill until his death there in 1909.
Swinburne stayed in Lancing in the 1880s

You can read more about Algernon Charles Swinburne here:

Bright Star, would I were stedfast as thou art

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

You can find out more about John Keats here:

The Female Exile

by Charlotte Smith


November’s chill blast on the rough beach is howling,
The surge breaks afar, and then foams to the shore,
Dark clouds o’er the sea gather heavy and scowling.
And the white cliffs re-echo the wild wintry roar.
Beneath that chalk rock, a fair stranger reclining,
Has found on damp sea-weed a cold lonely seat;
Her eyes fill’d with tears, and her heart with repining,
She starts at the billows that burst at her feet.
There, day after day, with an anxious heart heaving,
She watches the waves where they mingle with air;
For the sail which, alas! all her fond hopes deceiving,
May bring only tidings to add to her care.
Loose stream to wild winds those fair flowing tresses,
Once woven with garlands of gay Summer flowers;
Her dress unregarded, bespeaks her distresses,
And beauty is blighted by grief’s heavy hours.
Her innocent children, unconscious of sorrow,
To seek the gloss’d shell, or the crimson weed stray;
Amused with the present, they heed not to-morrow,
Nor think of the storm that is gathering to day.
The gilt, fairy ship, with its ribbon-sail spreading,
They launch on the salt pool the tide left behind;
Ah! victims — for whom their sad mother is dreading
The multiplied miseries that wait on mankind!
To fair fortune born, she beholds them with anguish,
Now wanderers with her on a once hostile soil,
Perhaps doom’d for life in chill penury to languish,
Or abject dependance, or soul-crushing toil.
But the sea-boat, her hopes and her terrors renewing.
O’er the dim grey horizon now faintly appears;
She flies to the quay, dreading tidings of ruin,
All breathless with haste, half expiring with fears.
Poor mourner! — I would that my fortune had left me
The means to alleviate the woes I deplore;
But like thine my hard fate has of affluence bereft me,
I can warm the cold heart of the wretched no more!

You can find out more about Charlotte Smith here:

A First View of the Sea

by Robert Bloomfield

ARE these the famed, the brave South Downs,
That like a chain of pearls appear;
Their pale-green sides and graceful crowns?
To freedom, thought, and peace, how dear!
To freedom, for no fence is seen;
To thought, for silence soothes the way;
To peace, for o’er the boundless green
Unnumbered flocks and shepherds stray.

Now, now we ’ve gained the utmost height:
Where shall we match the vale below?
The Weald of Sussex, glorious sight,
Old Chankbury, from the tufted brow.
And here old Sissa, so they tell,
The Saxon monarch, closed his days;
I judge they played their parts right well,
But cannot stop to sing their praise.

For yonder, near the ocean’s brim,
I see, I taste, the coming joy;
There Mary binds the withered limb,—
The mother tends the poor lame boy.
My heart is there—Sleep, Romans, sleep;
And what are Saxon kings to me?
Let me, O thou majestic Deep,
Let me descend to love and thee.

And may thy calm, fair-flowing tide
Bring Peace and Hope, and bid them live;
And Night, whilst wandering by thy side,
Teach wisdom,—teach me to forgive.
Then, when my heart is whole again,
And Fancy’s renovated wing
Sweeps o’er the terrors of thy reign,
Strong on my soul those terrors bring.

Oaks, British oaks, form all its shade,
Dark as a forest’s ample crown;
Yet by rich herds how cheerful made,
And countless spots of harvest brown!
But what ’s yon southward dark-blue line,
Along the horizon’s utmost bound,
On which the weary clouds recline,
Still varying half the circle round?

The sea! the sea! my God! the sea!
Yon sunbeams on its bosom play!
With milk-white sails expanded free
There ploughs the bark her cheerful way!
I come, I come, my heart beats high;
The greensward stretches southward still;
Soft in the breeze the heath-bells sigh;
Up, up, we scale another hill!

A spot where once the eagle towered
O’er Albion’s green primeval charms,
And where the harmless wild-thyme flowered
Did Rome’s proud legions pile their arms.
In Infant’s haunts I ’ve dreamed of thee,
And where the crystal brook ran by
Marked sands and waves and open sea,
And gazed, but with an infant’s eye.

’T was joy to pass the stormy hour
In groves, when childhood knew no more;
Increase that joy, tremendous power,
Loud let thy world of waters roar.
And if the scene reflection drowns,
Or draws too strongly rapture’s tear,
I ’ll change it for these lovely Downs,
This calm smooth turf, and worship here!

You can read more about Robert Bloomfield (1766-1823) here:

Dover Beach

by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land, Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.

But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

You can read more about Matthew Arnold ( 1822-1888) here:

The Sea View


by Charlotte Smith

THE upland shepherd, as reclined he lies
On the soft turf that clothes the mountain brow,
Marks the bright sea-line mingling with the skies;
Or from his course celestial, sinking slow,
The summer-sun in purple radiance low,
Blaze on the western waters; the wide scene
Magnificent, and tranquil, seems to spread
Even o’er the rustic’s breast a joy serene,
When, like dark plague-spots by the demons shed,
Charged deep with death, upon the waves, far seen,
Move the war-freighted ships; and fierce and red,
Flash their destructive fires — The mangled dead
And dying victims then pollute the flood.
Ah, thus man spoils Heaven’s glorious works with blood!

You can read more about Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) here: