Floods All The Soul With Its Melodius Seas

 

The Ninth Wave
The Ninth Wave by Ivan Alvazovsky

A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.

John Milton

Milton

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I pace the sounding sea-beach and behold
      How the voluminous billows roll and run,
      Upheaving and subsiding, while the sun
      Shines through their sheeted emerald far unrolled,
And the ninth wave, slow gathering fold by fold
      All its loose-flowing garments into one,
      Plunges upon the shore, and floods the dun
      Pale reach of sands, and changes them to gold.
So in majestic cadence rise and fall
      The mighty undulations of thy song,
      O sightless bard, England’s Mæonides!
And ever and anon, high over all
      Uplifted, a ninth wave superb and strong,
      Floods all the soul with its melodious seas.

Someone with keen powers of observation counted the waves that come ashore and realized that the ninth wave is the one with the most power and causes the most devastation.  Whether this is based on fact or is a product of sailors and shore dwellers imaginations, the ninth wave has become a metaphor for destruction, either by the power of nature or by the destructive forces of human actions.  Destruction is not an odd theme for artists to illuminate. The saying “worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush”, popularized by Anton Chekhov, is used in Russia for describing something  incredibly beautiful.  I suppose there’s a particular beauty in power beyond our control, even power that causes loss, if we are capable of disconnecting it from the pain of attachment, even the most powerful attachments – love.

Pro tip in interpreting these sonnets.   The line, O sightless bard, England’s Mæonides, is a very wordy way for Longfellow the say that Milton is England’s Homer, the Greek poet Homer sometimes referred to as Mæonides.   In Milton’s sonnet he refers to Latona, which is an alternate name for the Greek Goddess Leto, who conceived Juno and Apollo, a feisty couple of Gods who still battle in our heavens.  I am very fond of Milton’s sonnet below and timely for the lack of leadership that pervades politics and diplomacy here and around the globe.  Men and women everywhere still “bawl for freedom,” but have we the wisdom to manage it when the human condition trends towards selfishness and not a broader democratic approach to safe guarding us from the worst of us, and inspiring us by the best.

Longfellow and Milton both explored the beauty of loss and immortalized it in poetry.  They both experienced loss at the most profound level in their lives and moved forward, resiliency infused into their words, a backbone for their art. Beauty that lacks the fullness of our human experience risks being superficial.  What agony have you endured that had a semblance of beauty?  How does resilience manifest itself in your experience? How does destruction inform your art?


Sonnet 12

by John Milton

I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
       By the known rules of ancient liberty,
       When straight a barbarous noise environs me
       Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes and dogs:
As when those hinds that were transform’d to frogs
       Rail’d at Latona’s twin-born progeny
       Which after held the sun and moon in fee.
       But this is got by casting pearl to hogs,
That bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,
       And still revolt when truth would set them free.
       Licence they mean when they cry liberty;
For who loves that, must first be wise and good.
       But from that mark how far they rove we see,
       For all this waste of wealth and loss of blood.