The Wizard Sea

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This gray day, I find myself at sea, as I read Herman Melville’s poetry. In his life, he suffered the fears and disappointments of writing for a living. The fickle nature of the sea symbolized his readers, who loved Moby Dick, but deserted him with their indifference to his later works, including stirring civil war poetry.

Here is an excerpt from his poem, The Haglets, that speaks to my fairy-tale-loving heart:

Imbedded deep with shells
And drifted treasure deep,
Forever he sinks deeper in
Unfathomable sleep —
His cannon round him thrown,
His sailors at his feet,
Where never haglets beat.

On nights when meteors play
And light the breakers’ dance,
The Oreads from the caves
With silvery elves advance;
And up from ocean stream,
And down from heaven far,
The rays that blend in dream
The abysm and the star.

Notes: I love that Melville ends on an image of sinking down, plummeting as far as he can go, but once there, he finds that starlight reaches the lowest depths. Light finds him. To me, this is a verse of magic, beauty and hope in the midst of trial and trouble. Perhaps it even emerged from his struggles as a writer. The excerpt is from the Selected Poems of Herman Melville, A Reader’s Edition, edited by Robert Penn Warren, copyright 1967, David R. Godine, Publisher.

Haglet is defined as a shearwater, which is a bird related to a petrel, that skims along the water in flight. Yet, it’s a word that makes me think of banshees or witches. Abysm is a literary alternative to abyss.

An Oread is a mountain or hill nymph in Greek mythology. Like Melville’s Oread, I am retreating to my mountain cave (read: armchair) to hone my new book. I will scribble, read, revise, repeat, ad infinitum, until done. I’m not writing Moby Dick. I’m writing the story of a young girl named Syndara who isn’t wanted in her own home, who has skills no one respects but everyone want to use and control, whether she is willing or not. Syndara has to find her way, and I hope I can do her justice.

Thanks to Linda B at Teacher Dance for hosting Poetry Friday! Stop by for more amazing poetry.

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Have a magical January!

83 thoughts on “The Wizard Sea

  1. . com/2017/02/01/the-wizard-sea/” rel=”nofollow”>' Ace Friends News ' and commented:
    I know l missed January Barbara but only just it’s still magical to me anytime when you write your posts … Ian ⭐️😊👍 .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. . com/2017/02/01/the-wizard-sea/” rel=”nofollow”>' Ace Friends News ' and commented:
    I know l missed January Barbara but only just it’s still magical to me anytime when you write your posts … Ian ⭐️😊👍 .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. com/2017/02/01/the-wizard-sea/” rel=”nofollow”>' Ace Friends News ' and commented:
    I know l missed January Barbara but only just it’s still magical to me anytime when you write your posts … Ian ⭐️😊👍 .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “Haglet” is indeed a wondrously evocative word! Thanks for bringing it into my lexicon (tho I shall probably abandon/forget it’s actual meaning quite promptly, the better to fill my brain with imaginary implications…).

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  5. Brenda, thank you for your incisive critical review of my panicky poem (one writes much better in the throes of real emotion, don’t you think?), and also for your hopeful high and dry reminder. I must get used to a more see-saw state of affairs, I think–both due to the current affairs of state and to my own hormonally-induced surprises! I’m used to a steady-on kind of life without too many ups and downs (that I haven’t chosen), and things are different these days!

    Enjoyed your Melville ruminations–you enjoy your armchair with Syndara!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The best of luck with your book, Brenda. I’ve always found the initial writing to be easy, but the rewriting to be long and arduous. I trust you will make it through!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was not aware of Melville’s poetry! Sad state of affairs that is! I’m glad you brought it to our attention, and so happy that you explained all the words I was about to go fishing about for in a dictionary. Haglet has such a different meaning than what I conjured up in my mind. I am with you… sounds like a witchy-Tolkieny name!

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  8. Coming from a fairy tale-loving heart like yours, the tale of Syndara and her adventures is sure to be a magical read. Thanks for sharing that Herman Melville snippet. There is so much poetry to discover, new and old!

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  9. Brenda, your post has such magical qualities. It lets me depart from the real world horrific news to dig deep into a Melville poem as he spins his tale. Then, you shared that you are trying to help your character find her way. How marvelous to be involved in a literary venture. Best of luck.

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  10. I may have to give Melvillegal a second look, or at least his poetry, since I have never been a fan of Moby Dick. I love the images in this poem and how light pursues us even to the darkest depths. GoI’d luck working on your book!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kay! All encouragement is welcome. It’s a solitary business being an author, but less so with the internet. Melville is worth a second look. I found the book in the library. So many more words in the library than I can read in my lifetime. I love the attempt, though.

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  11. Brenda, it’s been a long time since I’ve read Melville. The starlight in this poem struck me too! I can’t wait to hear more about your book in the coming year. If you’re ready in the fall, consider applying to Pitch Wars. I was a middle-grade mentor this year and it was a great experience.

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  12. Thank you for sharing this magical post, Brenda! I’m embarrassed to confess that I didn’t know Melville wrote poetry. As you and others have mentioned, the “magic, beauty, and hope” shine in that second stanza’s gorgeous imagery. Best of luck to you and Syndara finding your way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Iphigene, Yes, Melville must have lived in a very different place from most of us today, in his actual surroundings and in his memories. He managed to create a world for his readers to escape into. I love when authors do that, it’s true literary magic. Thanks for commenting and Happy New Year! Brenda

      Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine he would be happy that we are still reading his work, all these many years later. That immortality is the reward for years of hardship and a trace of genius. Most would prefer to be rewarded like JK Rowling, though, and be a comfortable billionaire in your own life time. 🙂

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  13. Brenda, you found quite a lovely poetic passage by
    Melville. It really is important to read the final words to fully understand how deep and meaningful this is!
    I really liked the book Moby Dick. It was in a high school class. This discussions with Mr.Billheim and classmates were great. He bought me a book when I asked him as my only teacher guest to come to my graduation party.
    I fully expected one day to meet a person named Ishmael. Then, for fun (but NOT to make fun) people could call him “Ish” for short. 🙂
    The haglet did sound like a raggedy creature not a bird! 😀

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  14. Before I finished reading, I looked up “oread”, & then you explained it much better than the dictionary. This is lovely, Brenda. You’ve opened up a whole other world for me with Melville. I haven’t read Moby Dick for a very long time and didn’t know about his other writing. This is a little bittersweet but does have hope in that starlight, too. And it is perfect for this time in our history. Best wishes in your story writing, sounds like a book I will like.

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    • Melville wrote Billy Budd towards the end of his life, after years of critical failure. That was much better received than the words after Moby Dick. Now critics refer to Billy Budd as a kind of Indian Summer in his writing. That seems cruel to me, but then it can be a cruel world. It’s a cautionary tale to any writer. You can have one really great book that everyone loves and then… crickets. Still, at this point, I would be happy to have that one really great book. 🙂 Thanks for hosting and Happy New Year, Linda!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I confess that my brain had conjured up a wispy-gray cross between a mermaid and a banshee for a haglet and the actual definition was quite a surprise to me. We are losing so many cool words from our language. Just to read the names of different sea weeds is to read poetry. We are knee deep in science, which is great, so long as we don’t have to give up imagination and magic. I was very happy to see “silvery elves” in Melville’s words. Thanks for your words about my book. It’s hard work, but I have high hopes. 🙂

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    • My pleasure. I like that last line, too. It’s like the good and bad in all of us, the constant tension between light and dark. It was such a surprise to find this gem. I’ve only made it half way through the book. Perhaps there will be more surprises. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Sally.

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  15. Wow! Brenda, this poem is beautiful. Thank you for the notes. I tried listening to Moby Dick a few summers ago and I just couldn’t do it. I really didn’t know of Melville’s other works. Thanks for that tip too. I hope you have a wonderful time of writing and revising and dreaming. Have a great week!

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    • Hi Linda, I confess that women’s voices fall more welcome on my ears than the voices of men, but at times, they are just the medicine I need. I think I found Melville’s poetry at the perfect time. It’s helping brace myself for the political storms to come. You have a great week, too. Best, Brenda

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  16. “he finds that starlight reaches the lowest depths. Light finds him. To me, this is a verse of magic, beauty and hope in in the midst of trial and trouble.” This is such a spectacular thought you write and share. May we all remember this in today’s world. Lovely post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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