Recorded on Southampton Water
Oil on canvas
The body of my brother's son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.
'I fear thee, ancient Mariner!'
Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!
'Twas not those souls that fled in pain,
Which to their corses came again,
But a troop of spirits blest:
For when it dawned—they dropped their arms,
And clustered round the mast;
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
And from their bodies passed.
Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
Then darted to the Sun;
Slowly the sounds came back again,
Now mixed, now one by one.
The Mariner’s prayer of praise, fuelled by a change of heart and inspired by renewed contact with the sea creatures he once showed disdain for, displays a fusion of science, art and spirituality, impossible to dissect. The poet Anne Stevenson seems to echo him when saying, ‘the sea is as near we come to another world'. George Herbert, the seventeenth-century poet-priest, wrote, 'He that will learn to pray, let him go to the sea'.
A somewhat modern-day Mariner, John Steinbeck, during a marine biology expedition to the Gulf of Mexico, tried to capture what it is to be a biologist. 'The true biologist', he wrote, 'deals with life, with teeming boisterous life and learns something from it, learns that the first rule of life is living.'