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10 quotes about mothers that will move macho sailors

10 quotes about mothers that will move macho sailors

All mariners, presumably, love their mothers. What kind of man does not? Even when one gets older, marries and has his own family, the emotional bond remains. Fond memories linger even after one’s mother has passed away. In a sense, the umbilical cord is never really cut. The following quotes are some of the most powerful on the subject of mothers and their capacity for making sacrifices and for loving selflessly and unconditionally.

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.

— James Joyce, from ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ (1916)

Bliss leapt in his mother’s breast when she saw him, when she saw him walking, when she saw him sit down and get up, Siddhartha, strong, handsome, he who was walking on slender legs, greeting her with perfect respect.

— Hermann Hesse, from ‘Siddharta’ (1922)

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.

— William Makepeace Thackeray, from ‘Vanity Fair’ (1847-1848)

The bearing and the training of a child
Is woman’s wisdom.

— Alfred Tennyson, from ‘The Princess’ (1847)

—There is none,
In all this cold and hollow world, no fount
Of deep, strong, deathless love, save that within
A mother’s heart.

— Felicia Hemans, from ‘The Siege of Valencia: A Dramatic Poem’ (1823)

A woman’s love
Is mighty, but a mother’s heart is weak,
And by its weakness overcomes.

— James Russell Lowell, from ‘Legend of Brittany’ (1893)

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

— Rudyard Kipling, from ‘Mother o’ Mine’ (1892


The Happy Mother, 1913
Max Bohm (American,1868 – 1923)
Photo credit: The Smithsonian American Art Museum

She was human, sensible, shrewd. She was above all, and in every detail, practical. But more than that: she was one of that part of humankind which understands how things work; and works with them. A grim enough role.

— Doris Lessing, from ‘On Cats’ (2002)

They say that man is mighty,
He governs land and sea,
He wields a mighty scepter
O’er lesser powers than he;
But mightier power and stronger
Man from his throne has hurled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

— William Ross Wallace, ‘What Rules the World’ (1865)

Frederikke Tuxen and Birthe Ursula on the beach in Skagen, 1907
Laurits Tuxen (Danish, 1853 –1927)

Todas las cosas bellas
comenzaron cantando,
no olvides que tu madre
cantando te acunó.

(All beautiful things
began by singing,
don’t forget that your mother
singing cradled you.)

— Facundo Cabral (1937 – 2011), from the song ‘Está la puerta abierta’ (The door is open)

~ Barista Uno

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A wonderful trio of lighthouse poems by women

A wonderful trio of lighthouse poems by women

I recently came across three lighthouse poems which should delight anyone who loves lighthouses. All were written by women. Does that really matter? Feminists and literary critics would probably say ‘No’. However, there is a difference between men and women in the way they perceive and react to reality in general. The three poems that follow remind me of what the French writer and feminist, Simone de Beauvoir, said about women and poetry in her 1949 book ‘The Second Sex’ (‘Le deuxième sexe’):

“When not encountering love, she may encounter poetry. Because she does not act, she watches, she feels, she records; she responds deeply to a color or a smile; because her destiny is scattered outside her, in cities already built, on mature men’s faces, she touches and tastes both passionately and more gratuitously than the young man. As she is poorly integrated into the human universe, and has trouble adapting to it, she is, like the child, able to see it; instead of being interested only in her grasp of things, she focuses on their meaning; she perceives particular profiles, unexpected metamorphoses.”

from Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ (2009, translation by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier)

The Light-houses

by Lucy Larcom (American, 1824 – 1893)

Baker’s Island

Two pale sisters, all alone,
On an island bleak and bare,
Listening to the breakers’ moan,
Shivering in the chilly air;
Looking inland towards a hill,
On whose top one aged tree
Wrestles with the storm-wind’s will,
Rushing, wrathful, from the sea.

Two dim ghosts at dusk they seem,
Side by side, so white and tall,
Sending one long, hopeless gleam
Down the horizon’s darkened wall.
Spectres, strayed from plank or spar,
With a tale none lives to tell,
Grazing at the town afar,
Where unconscious widows dwell.

Two white angels of the sea,
Guiding wave-worn wanderers home;
Sentinels of hope they be,
Drenched with sleet, and dashed with foam,
Standing there in loneliness,
Fireside joys for men to keep;
Through the midnight slumberless
That the quiet shore may sleep.

Two bright eyes awake all night
To the fierce moods of the sea;
Eyes that only close when light
Dawns on lonely hill and tree.
O kind watchers! teach us, too,
Steadfast courage, sufferance long!
Where an eye is turned to you,
Should a human heart grow strong.

The Lighthouse

by Katharine Lee Bates (American, 1859 – 1929)

In seas far north, day after day
We leaned upon the rail, engrossed
In frolic fin and jewel spray
And crystal headlands of the coast.

Those beauties held so long in gaze
Have melted from my mind like snow,
But still I see through rifted haze
The wizard tower and portico

That flashed one instant, white and whist,
A grace too exquisite to keep,
A picture springing from the mist
As a dream comes shining out of sleep.

I do not know what name he wrote,
Our captain, in his good ship’s log,
For that sea-wraith, —how men denote
Our fleeting phantom of the fog;

But yet across the world I thrill
With rapture of that ivory gleam,
That sudden shaft of glory, till
It wears the wonder of a dream.

Faro en la noche

por Alfonsina Storni (argentina, 1892 – 1938)

Esfera negra el cielo
y disco negro el mar.

Abre en la costa, el faro,
su abanico solar.

A quién busca en la noche
que gira sin cesar?

Si en el pecho me busca
el corazón mortal.

Mire la roca negra
donde clavado está.

Un cuervo pica siempre,
pero no sangra ya.

Lighthouse at night

by Alfonsina Storni (Argentinian, 1892 – 1938)

The sky is a black sphere
and the sea a black disc.

Open on the coast, lighthouse,
your solar fan.

Who are you looking for in the night
that turns endlesssly?

If in your breast you’re looking for me
the mortal heart.

Look at the black rock
where it is nailed.

A raven always stings,
but it bleeds no more.

(translation by BU)

~ Barista Uno

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Five mindsets that beget the exploitation of seafarers

Five mindsets that beget the exploitation of seafarers

What gives rise to the exploitation of seafarers? Is it greed or lack of empathy? Is it 21st-century materialism? Is it the predatory infrastructure that has been built around the seafaring profession through so many maritime regulations? Surprisingly, the answer was provided by the Buddha more than 2,000 years ago. It can be found in the very first lines of the Dhammapada, a collection of the Buddha’s sayings:

All the phenomena of existence have mind as their precursor, mind as their supreme leader, and of mind are they made. If with an impure mind one speaks or acts, suffering follows him in the same way as the wheel follows the foot of the drawer (of the chariot).

(translated from the Pali by Harischandra Kaviratna and published with the title ‘Dhammapada, Wisdom of the Buddha’)

The following maritime mindsets or ways of thinking demonstrate the Buddha’s teaching about the mind. They help explain why seafarers are still mistreated, abused and taken advantage of despite the pervasive talk about their rights. Although not usually expressed in words, these mindsets are evident in the actions of the exploiters.

Seafarers only man the ships, which cost millions of dollars and are the the most valuable assets of shipowners. There are more where they come from. Therefore, they can be abandoned, replaced or treated as the shipowners wish.

Seafarers are earning well, and their wages are in U.S. dollars. Therefore, they can afford the mountain of training courses that is heaped upon them. Also, they won’t be worse off financially if they are short-changed by manning agents in the conversion of their dollar remittances to the local currency.

Seafarers owe their jobs to their manning agency. If not for the agency’s foreign principals, they would be out under the hot sun looking desperately for a shipboard placement. Therefore, they should be loyal to the manning agency, kowtow to the crewing managers, and not complain about anything.

Seafarers who report shipboard malpratices (e.g., double payrolling) to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) represent the worst of seafarers. They harm the interests of their manning agents, the shipowners and the shipping industry itself. They also give other seafarers of the same nationality a bad name. Therefore, they should be blacklisted.

Maritime unions and charities are doing seafarers a great service by promoting their rights and welfare. Therefore, it is perfectly all right if they profit, directly or indirectly, from seafarers. Those who criticise these organisations do not see the many good things they are doing on behalf of those who work at sea.

~ Barista Uno

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Some immortal lines about the hard life of seafarers

Some immortal lines about the hard life of seafarers

Who can truly know what a seafarer’s life is like? Surely, none but a person who has spent some time at sea and worked his ass off on board a ship. But thanks to nautical writers, the curious landlubber can have an insight into that life and perhaps feel a bit of empathy with seafarers.

The following are excerpts from some of these writers. Although they describe conditions faced by sailors in earlier times, the quoted passages should resonate with present-day readers. The truth is that the sea is still a dangerous place, and life is still hard for many mariners — notwithstanding all the noise about their rights as workers and as human beings.

I can utter a true song about myself, tell of my travels, how in toilsome days I often suffered a time of hardship, how I have borne bitter sorrow in my breast, made trial of many sorrowful abodes on ships; dread was the rolling of the waves. There the hard night watch at the boat’s prow was often my task, when it tossed by the cliffs.

— from ‘The Seafarer’ (prose translation by R. K. Gordon of the old Anglo-Saxon poem, 1926)

Nothing is more common than to hear people say, “Are not sailors very idle at sea? What can they find to do?” This is a natural mistake and, being frequently made, is one which every sailor feels interested in having corrected. In the first place, then, the discipline of the ship requires every man to be at work upon something when he is on deck, except at night and on Sundays. At all other times you will never see a man, on board a well-ordered vessel, standing idle on deck, sitting down, or leaning over the side. It is the officer’s duty to keep every one at work, even if there is nothing to be done but to scrape the rust from the chain cables. In no state prison are the convicts more regularly set to work, and more closely watched.

— Richard Henry Dana, Jr., from ‘Two Years Before the Mast’ (1899)

Seascape, 1876
Charles-François Daubigny (French, 1817 – 1878)
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

To a man locked up in a steel ship all the time, the sea is too much like a woman. Things like her lulls and storms, or her caprice, or the beauty of her breast reflecting the setting sun, are all obvious. More than that, you’re in a ship that mounts the sea and rides her and yet is constantly denied her. It’s the old saying about miles and miles of lovely water and you can’t quench your thirst. Nature surrounds a sailor with all these elements so like a woman and yet he is kept as far as a man can be from her warm, living body. That’s where the problem begins, right there – I’m sure of it.

— Yukio Mishima, from ‘The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea’ (translated from the Japanese by John Nathan, 1966)

Lhootse Station on the North Sea, no date
Albert Rieger (Austrian, 1834–1905)
Courtesy of Dorotheum auction house via Wikimedia Commons

…then the wind went round to the sou-west and began to pipe up. In two days it blew a gale. The Judea hove to, wallowed on the Atlantic like an old candleboc. It blew day after day: it blew with spite, without interval, without mercy, without rest. The world was nothing but an immensity of great foaming waves rushing at us, under a sky low enough to touch with the hand and dirty like a smoked ceiling. In the stormy space surrounding us there was a much flying spray as air. Day after day and night after night there was nothing round the ship but the howl of the wind, the tumult of the sea, the noise of water pouring over her deck. There was no rest for her and no rest for us.

— Joseph Conrad, from ‘Youth’ (1898)

Miserable dog’s life is this of the sea! commanded like a slave, and set to work like an ass! vulgar and brutal men lording it over me, as if I were an African in Alabama. Yes, yes, blow on, ye breezes, and make a speedy end to this abominable voyage!

— Herman Melville, from ‘Redburn: His First Voyage’ (1855)

A French Sailor, 1897
Christian Krohg (Norwegian, 1852 – 1925)
Courtesy of Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo

~ Barista Uno

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The art of Gustave Doré: Spicing up a classic sea poem

The art of Gustave Doré: Spicing up a classic sea poem

Excellent poetry, it could be argued, does not need to be complemented by art. This seems true in the case of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge about a mariner who unleashes a chain of misfortunes after killing an albatross. In a 2009 review of the poem published in the British newspaper The Guardian, Carol Rumens spoke of its hypnotic power: “The scenery remains thrillingly hellish, while laced with photographically realistic meteorological effects, and the narrative drive is irresistible.”

Why publish such a powerful poem with illustrations? It’s a reasonable question to ask, to which one could reply: WHY NOT, if the artist happens to be Gustave Doré (1832—1883)?

Read more about the life and works of Gustave Doré here.

The 38 wood engravings this French book illustrator made for the 1876 edition of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ are mind-blowing. They are noteworthy not only for their fine detail. They convey an atmosphere that greatly enhances the verses. Doré’s ultimate achievement in these illustrations has been to put flesh on the intense emotions which Coleridge depicted in the poem — fear, anxiety, panic, hope, anguish and remorse. The following sample artworks from each of the poem’s seven parts show a perfect marriage of poetry and art:


And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariners’ hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.

“God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus! —
Why look’st thou so?”— With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.


Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea


Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night–Mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
“The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!”
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.


I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to Heaven, and tried to pray:
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
my heart as dry as dust.


They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.

The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do:
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools —
We were a ghastly crew.


And the bay was white with silent light,
Till rising from the same,
Full many shapes, that shadows were,
In crimson colours came.

A little distance from the prow
Those crimson shadows were:
I turned my eyes upon the deck —
Oh, Christ! what saw I there!


“O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!”
The Hermit crossed his brow.
“Say quick,” quoth he, “I bid thee say —
What manner of man art thou?”

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched
With a woeful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale;
And then it left me free.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns;
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

Download a free copy of the illustrated ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. Click here.

~ Barista Uno

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