The Dark, Blue Sea

Hello All,

In the spirit of more frequent posts in 2012, I have decided to start off the year for fluid imaginings in the same way that I have started it, with a little aesthetic pleasure at the beauty of nature.

I am currently in a little town at the southern extreme of Western Australia called Walpole visiting my Dad and his family. Yesterday I went on a boat trip into the Walpole wilderness, an absolutely pristine stretch of land protected from exploitation for over a century. One highlight of the trip was a walk through the scrub-covered dunes in which the rustling of small native marsupials could be heard, and several native bush parrots hopped across the path. Upon reaching our destination, this was the scene I beheld:


Although a somewhat rubbish shot taken on my aged iPhone, it captures the feel of the scene. The darkened sky, the many coloured waves and the dunes with their windswept vegetation. Upon posting this image on Facebook (as you do these days), my friend Bec (who has this lovely blog) shared a Byron poem with me that seemed to capture my experience of the Southern ocean very nicely. I’d like to share it with you now:

The Dark, Blue Sea 

~Lord George Gordon Byron

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.-

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean-roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin-his control
Stops with the shore;-upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin’d, and unknown.

His steps are not upon thy paths-thy fields
Are not a spoil for him-thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray,
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth: there let him lay.

The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,
And monarchs tremble in their capitals,
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the armada’s pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.

Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee-
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters washed them power while they were free,
And many a tyrant since: their shores obey
The stranger, slave or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts:-not so thou,
Unchangeable, save to thy wild waves’ play-
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow-
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time
Calm or convulsed-in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; boundless, endless and sublime-
The image of eternity-the throne
Of the invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

And I have loved thee, ocean! And my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wanton’d with thy breakers-they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror-’twas a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane – as I do here.

(poem courtesy of
To finish off, here is a picture of the Walpole inlet at a spot called Coalmine beach. Look at those wonderful clouds!

2 thoughts on “The Dark, Blue Sea

  1. Those verses of Byron are often excerpted, as in Peter Jay’s fun anthology *The Sea, The Sea*, but they are part of a long poem, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” Canto 4, stanzas 178-184. The poem ends shortly thereafter at 4.186.

    I like the picture! My only experience of the Southern Ocean is the Shipwreck coast in SA, though I’ve been swimming near Perth and also took a fantastic trip to Monkey Mia way back in January of 1990.

  2. @Steve
    Having nothing more than a passing knowledge of the romantic poets, this was my first encounter with the verses. Thanks for the heads up! I’ll take a look at the poem in its entirety.

    I’m glad you like the picture. The whole stretch of coast near Walpole is a treasure trove of natural phenomena. The inlet sometimes glows with bioluminescence at night, there are a series of blue holes off the cost a few kilometres east of where this photo was taken, and there are dolphins in the inlet. I saw an enormous range of migratory birds and a large collection of pelicans. Truly a beautiful part of the world. The stormy skies seemed completely suitable at the time.

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