Reading ‘On the Sea,’ I understand it as presenting the ocean as something that rejuvenates. Indeed, discovering this poem was something of a rejuvenating experience for me – having studied Keats at A Level, I digested a lot of his poetry, but never came across this verse. I love it; it almost has the effect that seeing – I want to say experiencing – the sea itself has on me, in the way it conjures up images of the water crashing onto rocks, or (somewhat less violently) whispering as waves break onto empty beaches. I love the affirmation of the sea as ‘eternal’ and ‘mighty,’ as if the poem is insisting that it will always be there, so we should probably go and ‘feast’ ourselves on it!
Having recently moved to a new flat with quite a view, the word ‘feast’ seems very apt for the experience of trying to take in all that you can see, and the relaxing effect this can have on ‘eyeballs vexed and tired.’
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 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! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody—
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth and brood,
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired!