In 1906 Henri Matisse painted ‘Young Sailor I’ and ‘Young Sailor II’ (pictured above) in the French Mediterranean fishing village of Collioure. The portraits, which are similar but quite distinct from each other in style, are a tribute of sorts to all young men and women who work at sea. Today, Labour Day 2014, we’d like to share the following poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in honour of the seafaring youth. It’s an endearing piece about a boy who leaves the comforts of home to follow the call of the sea.

The Sailor Boy
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1861)

He rose at dawn and, fired with hope,
Shot o’er the seething harbour-bar,
And reach’d the ship and caught the rope,
And whistled to the morning star.

And while he whistled long and loud
He heard a fierce mermaiden cry,
“O boy, tho’ thou are young and proud,
I see the place where thou wilt lie.

“The sands and yeasty surges mix
In caves about the dreary bay,
And on thy ribs the limpet sticks,
And in thy heart the scrawl shall play.”

“Fool,” he answer’d , “death is sure
To those that stay and those that roam,
But I will nevermore endure
To sit with empty hands at home.

“My mother clings about my neck,
My sisters crying, ‘Stay for shame;’
My father raves of death and wreck,-
They are all to blame, they are all to blame.

“God help me! save I take my part
Of danger on the roaring sea,
A devil rises in my heart,
Far worse than any death to me.”


It’s a hard life for seafarers – harder than most folks who live and work on land can imagine. On Labour Day, those who benefit from the sweat and tears of seafarers can probably pause awhile and thank them for their sacrifices. ~Barista Uno


Feel free to comment on and share this article. You may also like:

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