I have sometimes wondered: how many choose to be seafarers, not just for the money, but for love of the sea and the seagoing life? Like the ocean tide, the question rose up again in my mind when I recently came across a poem by Edward Clement Cruttwell (1888–1938), a Royal Navy lieutenant who served in World War I.

Simply called ‘Song’, the poem is included in Sea Songs and Other Verses by Cruttwell published in London in 1912. It is a short composition with just three stanzas totalling 18 lines. However, it delivers a poignant message in simple yet powerful and melodic language.

The speaker in the poem asks the sailors of yore to sing him “the witching melody” and the “eerie song” of the sea. He longs to hear them

Speak of the lands of sun,
    Of the grass that is always green,
Tell of the prowess you have won
    And the glories you have seen.

In the end, he acknowledges the fact that “it cannot be”. The age of sail and adventure is no more. The ultimate line drops like a heavy anchor falling into the water: “Alas! Romance is dead…”.

Cruttwell’s poem is really an elegy for the stout-hearted sailors of the past — when, as American writer George Davis put it in his autobiography, “wooden ships were manned and sailed by men of iron, and not as now, when iron ships are run by wooden men”.

Song

 

You, who have loved the sea
     As only a sailor can,
Sing me the witching melody
     It wakes in the soul of Man;
Sing of the eerie song
     That heralds the treshing gale,
And the plaint that is borne along
     To the filling of the sail.

You, who have known the sea
     As only a sailor may,
Speak of the solemn melody
     Whispered at close of day;
Speak of the lands of sun,
     Of the grass that is always green,
Tell of the prowess you have won
     And the glories you have seen.

Ah, no! it cannot be, I said,
     Alas! Romance is dead …

Did you like this article? Support this site with a small donation.  Buy me a coffee

Let us know what you think of this article

Don't Miss the Brew!

Sign up to be notified of updates to Marine Cafe Blog

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest