Eulogies are not only for dead heroes. Moved by the demise of the HMS Temeraire after a 40-year career, three poets paid tribute to the gallant ship. One was English and the other two were Americans, which goes to show that the Temeraire’s fame extended beyond the shores of Great Britain.
Since time immemorial, humankind has been fascinated no end by swans. These aquatic birds are not only beautiful and elegant. They have an air of mystery about them.
In 1795 the famous German poet and author, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, wrote a pair of sea poems. Both are short. The first (Meeresstille, or Calm at Sea) consists of only eight lines; the second (Glückliche Fahrt, or The Prosperous Voyage), 10 lines. However, they would inspire Felix Mendelssohn to compose a captivating concert overture which borrowed the titles of Goethe’s poems and was first performed in 1828.
I ran across a poem which I thought would be good to share with readers of Marine Café Blog, especially those who work at sea. ‘Thanksgiving Day at Sea’ was written by L. H. Sigourney (1791—1865), an American poet and schoolteacher. The poem is included in her 1850 book, Poems for the Sea. Although not particularly striking, it is worth reading because of its message and the prayer-like sincerity of the words.
Old song recordings are a delight to listen to. They have a certain charm, a character, like vintage wine. They can bring back memories of one’s childhood… of grandparents who are no longer around… and of family phonographs that have long fallen silent.
Of the many songs recorded by the English rock band The Beatles, only two had a nautical theme: Yellow Submarine and Octopus’ Garden. This fact is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. After all, the group had its beginnings in Liverpool, a maritime hub and port of registry of the Titanic. All four of its members — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — were born there. At any rate, the two songs are quite memorable. The melodies are charming; the lyrics, endearing.
What is it like to come face to face with death at sea? Only those who have survived a shipwreck can truly know the horror of it all — the moment of panic when the ship keels over or breaks apart, the struggle to stay afloat in a frigid sea, and the desperate waiting for help to come. Even so, a gifted writer can help us imagine what both the survivors and the unfortunate dead went through
Popular in the early 1980s, ‘Cool Change’ was written by Australian singer-songwriter Glenn Barrie Shorrock (born 30th June 1944), a co-founder of the Little Rock Band. The lyrics speak of spending time alone on “the cool and bright clear water” — a message that should resonate with anyone who wants to get away, in the words of English poet Thomas Grey, “far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife”.
Many would probably assume that ‘The Wellerman’ (full title: ‘Soon May the Wellerman Come’) is the most popular shanty. But this song is a 19th-century whaling ballad from New Zealand, not a shanty. The popularity crown goes rather to ‘Drunken Sailor’.
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.
I have known a number of old salts who are no longer around. They have made their final voyage. To them I dedicate the following poems which are memorable on account of their moving imagery and heartfelt words. I trust that others will be touched as well by these beautiful verses.
Poems about maritime pilots are so rare that ‘Le Pilote de Tonga’ (The Pilot of Tonga) is a veritable gem. But there’s another reason this prose poem is special. It was written in 1856 by Charles Meryon (1821–1868), a French artist, printmaker and naval officer whose biography makes for interesting reading