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Location: toronto, Canada

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Friday, February 04, 2005

On The Sea

It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them in their old shadowy sound.
Often 'tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from where it sometime fell,
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with the uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody-
Sit ye near some ole Cavern's Mouth and brood,
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired!

John Keats

I loved the way the poem opens with eternal whisperings being kept around. This mysterious introduction implies romanticism immediately. I also realized that the sea and word eternal have a common parallel. Countries throughout history change while the sea does not. As time passes the countries' people and image changes. Wars force a country to be rebuilt and other countries influence the rebirth of their neighbour countries. Seas on the other hand remain constant as travellers since the beginning use them as a means of travel. On these long voyages of discovery, war path, or adventure I can only imagine the array of emotions and conversations that have been held at sea.
The word "Cavern" that is continuously mentioned throughout the poem, and capitalized adds to this sense of mystery. Cavern meaning a deep cave. Hecate which is the Greek goddess associated with witchcraft and the underworld is also brought into the equation. When I looked up the word swell I found that it meant the heaving of the sea after a storm. The language in this poem paints a very mysterious picture. The violent movement of the water after a storm invading these deep caves in the ocean until "the spell of Hecate leaves them in their old shadowy sound".
After creating this vigorous image a gentle and soft side of the sea is seen. Even though such rough conditions can take place, a simple, small seashell can remain barely moved from where it was dropped some time ago. The words "gentle" and "temper" beside each other provide an interesting prardox. What is a gentle temper? I think Keats described a gentle temper extremely well with his seashell example. There also seems to be a cycle at work in nature, an understanding almost that there forces are to work hand in hand. Heaven's "unbound" wind is what pushes this shell to where it falls and the water which moves furiously in and out of this cavern after a storm barley moves this little object as if there's a respect for eachother's elements.
The poem concludes on an exciting note. Go hear the "melody" that is created. Hear the sound until you start thinking anxiously as if "sea nymphs" wrote poetry is the message to be taken in by his poem, and a beautiful one it is. The poem commences with high energy and retains it throughout until the very last word. By the end of the poem one is convinved that experiencing this aspect of nature is a must.

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