Sea Saga – Francis Engleheart

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1959 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicators: John Betjeman, W.D. Rogers, Stevie Smith

The poem of the sea in lines and stanzas
Sweeps and processes by my jutting rock
In periods and waves of rhetoric;
Swings in unending passages of power
The breaking rhythm of rollers, countercrossed
And flecked with wavelets of another tune,
Stippled with yet a third. Superficies
Reverberant, skeined with a snowy lace,
Ravelled and drawn and twisted in a froth
Whipped by the wind, are scudding over the crests
To huddle in the hollows of the shore
In shivering air-laid eggs that incubate
And, hatching in the sun, make air again
And wispy shells of salt. Continuously
The breakers curl and run up the shore
In seethe and thunder, shallowing into white
And swingeing in thin foam to the lighter wrack,
Flooding it up the shingle to a hush…
And then, a murmuring sibilance increases,
Swills in exuberant inspissated hiss
With a rattle and roll of abrasion, a jostling
Pother of cannoning pebbles cavorting
In the green glass wall of the next encounter.
This is the shore-line heart-beat pattern,
The systole-diastole of stranded water,
Now swelling out, now softening, yet rhythmic.
But from my rock, an over jutting plane,
Set ages past at just that angle
The jointing and erosion calculated,
Shoots back at irregular intervals
Thin bright nets of astonishment,
Explodes into gouts and blasts of silver
And bubbling sheets of sea. Or a molar
Spontaneous eruption surges backward
To meet the advancing phalanx crests
In surrealist quashings and augmentations,
In twisting towers and Matterhorns of umbrage.
One can but stare and stare… And still and still
The endless combers toss with facets dancing:
The saga of the sea in words and letters,
The rune, the writing we may hardly read.

Copyright © Francis Engleheart 1959

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