It keeps eternal whisperings around

Here is a nice sonnet from Keats on the sea, its mysteries and its healing powers for the psyche. This explains why people are drawn to the sea-shore, to listen to the lapping of the waves, feel the sea breeze wafting across their faces and gaze out at the far horizon which seems to have no limits. This poem is a good companion piece to his “Sonnet written on the top of Ben Nevis”, posted here on June 21, 2015, in which we get a similar appreciation of the mountains.

On the Sea

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! 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 choired!

From <;

The first four lines evoke the remote mystery of the sea, its loneliness and desolation, as its tides swell into remote caverns, and then recede, as if under the spell of witchcraft, Hecate being the Greek goddess of witches and magic. But the second four lines move into a more comforting tone, with the sea in gentle mood, hardly disturbing a tiny shell on the beach, from where it had been deposited in some recent storm. The final six lines exhort the reader to watch, listen to and meditate on the sea as a restful and positive antidote to the stresses and strains of everyday life. Tired eyeballs find relief and the sound of the waves can bring joy, just as if they were beautiful and melodious sea-nymphs.

So let’s go to the sea…

The Poetry Dude


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