“Like your body, your mind also gets tired so refresh it by wise sayings,” according to the caliph Ali bin Abi Talib. My mind is not tired, but I thought I would share some quotations about sailors and the sea. Except for two quotes (from the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima and the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge), all were taken from the free online compendium, Wikiquote. I hope these lines from the past will help shed some new light on seafarers and their hopes and struggles.
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (text of 1834)
Possibly a man who hates the land should dwell on shore forever. Alienation and the long voyages at sea will compel him once again to dream of it, torment him with the absurdity of longing for something that he loathes. ~Yukio Mishima, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (1965)
Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned. ~ Samuel Johnson, quoted by James Boswell in Life of Samuel Johnson (1759)
O’er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,
Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
Survey our empire, and behold our home!
~ Lord Byron, The Corsair (1814)
To see! to see! — this is the craving of the sailor, as of the rest of blind humanity. To have his path made clear for him is the aspiration of every human being in our beclouded and tempestuous existence. ~ Joseph Conrad, The Mirror of the Sea (1906)
Watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. There it is before you, smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering, “Come and find out”. ~ Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899)
Beware of the Sea! If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore, Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more. ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings 2001–2003 film series (The Lady Galadriel to Legolas Greenleaf)
The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators. ~ Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–1789)
Efficiency of a practically flawless kind may be reached naturally in the struggle for bread. But there is something beyond — a higher point, a subtle and unmistakable touch of love and pride beyond mere skill; almost an inspiration which gives to all work that finish which is almost art — which is art. ~Joseph Conrad, The Mirror of the Sea (1906)
Every drunken skipper trusts to Providence. But one of the ways of Providence with drunken skippers is to run them on the rocks. ~ Bernard Shaw, Heartbreak House (1919)
The impulsive desire to save human life when in peril is one of the most beneficial instincts of humanity, and is nowhere more salutary in its results than in bringing help to those who, exposed to destruction from the fury of winds and waves, would perish if left without assistance. ~ Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet, Scaramanga v. Stamp (1880)
It is of great importance that the laws by which the contracts of so numerous and so useful a body of men as the sailors are supposed to be guided, should not be overturned. ~ Lloyd Kenyon, Cutter v. Powell (1795)
~ Barista Uno
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