Sea-Things [poem by Rex Ingamells]

[Editor: This poem by Rex Ingamells was published in Gumtops (1935).]


I love the sea. Oh, how I love the sea!
All ocean things are magic things to me.

I love the solitude of ocean days,
When up above me billowed canvas sways;
I love the spray-sweet cleanliness of decks;
The singing of the winds that carry flecks
Of flaky spume like feathers through the shrouds,
And trail their giant fingers in the clouds.
I love the creaking mast; the screech and call
Of sea-birds flying; and to see the tall
Magnificence of some fair sailing ship,
Whose bows majestically rise and dip,
And furrow whitely through the scourging waves.
I love forlorn and rocky ocean caves,
Which lisp their echoes when the air is calm,
And thunder when the storm-battalions arm.

I love sea-rains; and noisy porpoises.
I love old-fashioned sea-side villages,
Whose streets, swept by the winds, are always clean;
Whose chimneys take a gentle landward lean,
Whence smoke goes blowing inland under skies
Of evening emerald; the honest eyes,
The keen, straight look that sea-folk never lose;
And small, bright isles; the play of greens and blues
Between two quiet headlands; all barefoot
And laughing children, weather-tanned, who put
Red sea-weed in their hair, and, stooping, seek
For pretty shells along a beach; a creek
That sparkles from the land into the sea;
All smooth-worn coloured pebbles; and the free
Wild look of jagged promontories; the slopes
Of sweeping hills, whose smiling grassy copes,
Wind-ruffled, curve to graceful yellow sands,
Be-rippled by the dancing waters; bands
Of sea-weed thrown up by the waves; the glare
Of sunsets on the sea; a coastline where
There are no buildings, and the prospect wild
Of endless sea confronts me (league is piled
On lonely league!). A sight I love to catch
On topping some lone cape’s a bobbing patch
Of white, far brighter than the lines of spume —
A fishing boat! I love to hear the boom
Of southern rollers smite the cliffs of rock
At Stenhouse Bay, and thunderously mock
The intermittent murmurous silences.

I love to see the turban or the fez
Above the face of Moslem or Hindoo;
To watch a deep-sea freighter heave in view,
Some miles to sea, with coolies at the rails;
And English steamers coming with the mails.
I love to see the stars creep through the rifts
Of cloud. Oh, when the round and white moon lifts
Her face above the sea’s dark rim and yields
Her smiles in one long stream across the fields
Of wave to me, I stand upon the deck,
Those smiles of gold upon my breast and neck,
My arms and all the ship. Then I rejoice;
The seas peaks ever with its murmurous voice.

I’ve watched the sea-moon riding high among
Black broken squadrons where the storms have sung,
And thrilled because, all round the savage sea,
The moon-gleams were intense with mystery.

I love the moon-flung shadows of a ship,
Spreading and shrinking as each mast’s high tip
Sways, port to starboard, and to port again.
I love strong vessels as I love strong men.

I love all fair sea-rovers from the north,
Whose Viking fathers, ages since, went forth
In sturdy barques to where the sea-ice floats,
Through gloomy fiords, ringing with the notes
Of warrior-songs, and oaths, and splash of oars;
For many staunch Norwegians from those shores
I count my friends. I love to stand at night,
Wrapped tightly up, beside the compass-light,
And listen to the helmsman tell the tale
Of his wild wanderings in the ships of sail;
Of how he scaled the harbour rigging when
He was a lad, and questioned brawny men,
Who knew where many-coloured islands lay
In emerald waters o’er the world away;
Of how his heart was thrilled with joy at last
By his apprenticeship before the mast;
Of the dark dangers of a thousand storms;
Of blue lagoons, green palms, the swaying forms
Of lithe brown dancers on a moonlit beach;
Of hill-hid singers’ voices, which would reach
A havened ship on ebbing, flowing wind;
Of soulful-sweet guitars; of men who sinned
Excessively, and died; and of the nights
Upon the lonely seas, when cabin-lights
Were burning brightly, and a crew would crowd
Inside the fo’c’s’le, boisterous and loud
With songs and yarns and mirth . . . . I love to see
The helmsman’s face a-flicker ruddily,
The while he lights his pipe and lapses back
Into a long and thoughtful silence. Lack
Of words or stories does not cause it. No;
Anon the pipe is done and does not glow.
The even voice begins again. I’m told
Of distant ports most wonderfully old,
And I could wish to visit every one.
All kinds of places underneath the sun
Are brought before my eyes when sailors talk:
Through stinking Oriental streets I walk;
I barter with Egyptians in bazaars;
I seek strange waterfronts, and in the bars
I jostle with a hundred such as I;
And then, beneath a hazy English sky,
I hear the foghorns blaring on the Thames;
I see the misty lights at night, like gems,
By London Bridge; and hear the clank and thrum
Of engines as the steamers go and come.

Oh, how I love the sea! I love the smell
Of tangy salt-wind; and the ceaseless swell
Of ocean rollers; and the rows of lights
Of giant steamers passing in the nights.

I love the sea. Oh, how I love the sea!
All ocean things are magic things to me.

Rex Ingamells. Gumtops, F. W. Preece & Sons, Adelaide, 1935, pages 36-40

Editor’s notes:
anon = soon, shortly (it may also mean: at another time, later; an archaic meaning is: at once, immediately)

cope = a long cloak, especially as worn by a bishop or priest on a ceremonial occasion; a cloak-like covering or a covering in general (e.g. “beneath the dark sky’s starry cope” in section XV of Shelley’s “The Revolt of Islam”)

fo’c’s’le = (a contraction of “forecastle”) the section of the upper deck of a vessel, at the bow, forward of the foremast, where the crew is quartered and stores located

league = a unit of distance; in nautical terms, in English-speaking countries, a league was equal to 3 nautical miles (5.5 kilometers); a league on land was equal to 3 miles on land (4.8 kilometers); however, the definition of a league was different in various non-English-speaking countries

o’er = o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

spume = foam or froth on a liquid, especially on waves at sea

Speak Your Mind