Friday, April 22, 2016


There have been years since my last reading of this poem but it always roars back like it did the very first time I heard it. I heard it in Chicago one night on their local public radio as I drove into town after midnight and then I asked the most erudite and knowledgeable professor of (back then, English), who authored it and he told me, for he really does know many things beyond the ken of seafarers.

I used to live above a beach or two and just about every single night the second time I lived in Newport, I would walk down to the beach. The other two Ensigns and our senior housemate, LT Mike Lemieux figured I was crazy but, I like the beach, even if it is covered with snow and ice.

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Agaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Dover Beach
Matthew Arnold

In the quiet hours, as I head into my 56th year, I like to remember a friend, who still owes me money.

He was a most excellent man and officer of the USN.


Captain Steve said...

Excellent. Thanks!

HMS Defiant said...

He was one of the good ones and like I collect books, he collected music. Honestly, who in 84 had a reel to reel tape machine and $2000 speakers?

virgil xenophon said...

Who in '84? Hell, I still have a (now rare) TEAC 6010 S reel to reel that I bought in Hong Kong in '68 and AR3a speakers that I bought at the 1st MAW BX in DaNang in '68 for 99 bucks apiece. Still make custom "mood" tapes off my vinyl. Don't know what ARs cost now...probably not $2000. Have a (now also rare) Elac Miracord 50H turntable that I bought in Hong Kong also....still top of the line as far as I'm concerned....just an Antique collector, I guess. :)

HMS Defiant said...

Mike was stationed on USS Worden when it was homeported in both Japan and the PI. He bought all the best hi-fidelity sound gear he could and had over a thousand albums when I shared a house with him in 83/84. Heck, when we preparing to move out we all went up to the big mall by Foxboro and he bought some more gear and the master recordings (vinyl) in a set. I'm sure he kept it all until the day he died. He was also a killer musician.