Poetry Challenge 9: Post Thy Poems

We are revising or rewriting “The Sea-bird to the Wave” by Padraic Colum. My greatest struggle was to try to get inside the sea bird’s perspective and use an appropriate vocabulary. I also felt that this poem could use a pulse or rhythm to represent both the seawave and the seabird, what binds them and makes them “brother.” Aside than that, I took quite a few liberties.

Can’t wait to see what we get!


  1. Mother, thine;
    Mother, mine:
    Cold and gray
    Glass and green
    Sweet salt blue
    Swift her flex
    Slow her pulse
    Vast her mouth
    Us who seek

    O thou white
    Twin of mine
    Sister flung
    On and on
    Reach for me
    While I dive
    Hide thy head
    While I soar
    Rush and roar
    While I cry
    Settle, sigh
    Dip and shift
    Surge and lift
    While we scud
    On and on
    And on…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very initial impression– I like this, and think the first twelve lines of the second stanza are the strongest. I keep re-reading those. The first stanza feels a bit. . . uncertain? As if it hasn’t quite found it’s voice? But perhaps it’s only that I am not used to it yet. I will be back for further rereadings.

      Liked by 1 person

    • How fitting the three beat line: UP down UP, ONE two ONE — gentle swells with an occasional rush, as in the 3 in a row, UP UP UP, of “sweet salt blue.” (Perfect sound-plus-sense image too, with “sweet” and “salt” sloshing along, bumping against each other, demanding attention and calling forth larger meanings) Then another rhythm change immediately followed by its opposite with no pause between lines in “Nourishes / us who seek,” which creates a conversational tone (bird reflecting now before again trying to comprehend the sea through use of striking images in a simiarly alternating rhythm sequence in the final three lines of the first stanza–very well packed!)

      You may not have thought it out this way. In fact i’m pretty sure you didnt because it reads like an incantation, magic langage, reaching towards a sea-essence which is beyond logic. The second stanza is different. It flows more evenly,but that fits too because now the bird is expressing, not describing r trying tounderstand, its everyday relationship with the sea. The images are simpler and the tone more relaxed, even affectionate. Each approach works, though in different ways. The sea, like the Christian God, is infinitely beyond but also close, companionable, and responsive. Comparing the last three lines of both stanzas, I see those two elements of faith.

      The only question remaining is, do they work TOGETHER to make one poem. For example, I think if I came across this in a book of poems, I might wonder about the connection between the mother of the first stanza and the twin of the second, This is not a criticism, just a question. After thinking a lot about the sea these past days, I almost didn’t want to see this as a poem. It went behind that, in a way. It’s an experience rather than an object.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, the mother was meant to be the sea, and the twin was meant to be the wave. In different ways, the sea is the mother of both the bird and the wave. But the bird’s feeling of siblingship with the wave is not just this shared “mother” but also the way that he feels, in his simple bird mind, that the wave with its white crest and its inverse motions reflecting his own, is somehow like him. I feel I shouldn’t have used “mirror” as a bird would have no mirrors proper in his world.


        • Now it fits: “yours” refers to the wave, “us” to bird and wave, “twin” to the wave. Of course.

          It’s all one poem. I let my own fascination with the sea (”reaching towards a sea-essence which is beyond logic”) lead me away from the poem itself into a meditation that I only imagined was there, or wanted to be there because I often think about poetry that way: as puzzles to be solved or mysteries to wonder at (e.g., the bird’s “everyday relationship with the sea”)

          I need to read poems more carefully, as complete experiences, instead of just as word combinations to think about. And pay attention to titles. If I had kept the original title in mind, it wouldn’t have taken this long to appreciate your version. The good thing , however, is that these challenge activities are instructive, though a bit humbling (for me), but aso and especially inspiring.


          • Well, I thought your comment about the sea-essence was spot on – that’s what I meant, certainly. As for your reading more into the poem than was really there, if that happened then perhaps it was your insight into what more the poem should and could have been. Maybe I just didn’t pack enough into the poem, so you had to add some mentally, lol. However I’m glad it reads as one poem now!


  2. On and on
    o white brother-
    the thunder does not daunt thee!
    Self bourne you rise
    and wingless, glide,
    o fairest thing the wide sea shows me!
    On and on
    o white brother-
    as the billowing winds
    upbear my wings
    your rounding waters soar.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like the contrasts and the movement. The seams are more noticeable than I would like.

      Self-borne thou risest

      would be correct, or else

      The thunder does not daunt you


      • You are too right about the seams! I need to either change my voice or his so there is more flow.

        However, in keeping the “thee”, I was remembering a comment you made recently to the effect that “thou forms” and “you” coexisted in the same era, and that “thee” was actually a more informal mode of address. But perhaps more knowledge of archaic niceties is necessary to use both in a poem?


        • Well I guess I would want to see some reason why you would address the same person on the same occasion with two different forms of address. Am I missing it?


          • Ah, of course. My reasons were not contextual, only that I had an impulse to preserve some of the original and there were rhyming considerations. Your comments about “you” and “thou” made me think I could do this, but now of course I see that is probably insufficient grounds for the usage, if one wants to avoid the results seeming patchy.

            A tentative revision–

            On and on
            O white brother-
            The thunder does not daunt thee!
            Self bourne, arise
            And wingless, glide,
            O fairest thing the wide sea shows me!
            On and on
            O white brother-
            As billowing winds
            Upbear my wings
            Do thou, swift rounding water,


  3. I think I got too far away from the Column poem, having discovered an interest in “The Seafarer” after reading this person’s work: http://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.com/2016/02/spring.html.
    But it was worth the try, since I now have a different view of the sea and its farers. (I had to stop myself from revising. It kept changing–like the sea)


    a hafað longunge he always has a longing,
    se þe on lagu fundað. he who strives on the waves.

            (from The Seafarer)

    “.O Moving Water! Lmitless
    Presence! How you keep on moving,
    Mother without lover,
    O Surge that surprises, inspires
    nearly exhausts as I follow your rolling”

         How each wave works
         without feathers or wing
         He wonders, skimming
         The surface pages,
          Learning the poem 
          of curves as they move.

    “Cold but reliable provider,
    Your depths deeper than mind,
    without shape, fluid shadow
    dancing swirling beckoning soon enough rocking
    As if disappearing towards sleep.”

            She waits , and invites
            bird who tries to keep up:
            they--like distant family--
            distinct but related 
            In form and in love 
            of the graceful move.

    Liked by 2 people

        • So the stanzas in the highlighted boxes are not yours?

          “Cold but reliable provider,
          Your depths deeper than mind,
          without shape, fluid shadow
          dancing swirling beckoning soon enough rocking
          As if disappearing towards sleep.”

          This is wonderful!


          • They are mine (if any lines can be said to be “ours”), but I had trouble printing them the way I had intended. I don’t know why they came out looking foreign. The poem was supposed to fluctuate between bird thought and interpreter/commenter. I probably shouldn’t have included the references to that wonderful ancient mariner poem.


        • Well thank you. I am pleased. But clearly the poem you quote was a perfect influence for you. You must have a very receptive mind. Anyhow there’s more in your work here than you seem to know. I’m glad to see you expanding your subject matter. You handle the depth and grandness well.


  4. I took some liberties.

    on and on
    roll white waves
    crest and foam, impulsive froth!

    on and on
    matching pace
    seabird flits and swoops aloft.

    does the seabird long to soar
    wingless where the waters roar
    undaunted by the thundering storm
    a sea-embracing flight?

    does the wave long for life
    longer than one turn and crash and sigh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alena, I think this is an interesting solution. You’ve converted the viewpoint from “seabird thinks wave is his brother” to “onlooker wonders what likeness there is between seabird and seawave.” Your slanted rhymes are interesting and refreshing. There’s a melancholy here as well… a bit of a sigh at the end as the onlooker wonders whether there might be a bit more to this likeness than mere accident. That melancholy suits the subject matter and the rhythm well. I like the repeated use of “on and on,” as well as the organization of thought.

      It’s fairly Victorian – which is not a criticism. It’s just good to know what you’re doing. That hint of “something more” without actually indulging in it, the sonorous lines, the rhetoric that addresses Nature or some part of it.

      Overall, I would say this is an effective poem. Obviously, the fourth line of the third stanza actually belongs with the fourth stanza – in terms of pattern. In terms of thought, I can see why you moved it.

      Here’s an example of how you might have solved it, and kept your pattern. (It’s all about winnowing down to your best words and ideas.)

      does the seabird long to soar
      wingless where the waters roar
      sea-embracing, dauntless in the storm?

      does the wave long for life
      erupting into brother-flight
      longer than one turn and crash and sigh?

      I do think ending in pentameter is classic and very effective. You might try broadening the final lines of the other stanzas to pentameter – but only if your new syllables aren’t just padding, but add a genuine thought.

      Thanks for contributing!


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