Sunday, 27 June 2010


Andrew Marvell observed that "the poet is placed ... in a paradise of delights, and ... has a duty to contemplate them". If there is such a place as an earthly paradise perhaps it's the remote island of Bermuda, a pink and white jewel on a green baize cloth set in a turquoise sea and protected from invader and storm by a barrier reef inhabited by shoals of wondrously coloured fish and the ancient wrecks of many ships which sailed a little too close to her shores.


Where the remote Bermudas ride
In the ocean's bosom unespied,
From a small boat, that rowed along,
The listening winds received this song.-

"What should we do but sing His praise
That led us through the watery maze,
Unto an isle so long unknown,
And yet far kinder than our own?
Where He the huge sea-monsters wrecks,
That lift the deep upon their backs.
He lands us on a grassy stage,
Safe from the storms' and prelates' rage;
He gave us this eternal Spring
Which here enamels every thing,
And sends the fowls to us in care,
On daily visits through the air;
He hangs in shades the orange bright,
Like golden lamps in a green night,
And does in the pomegranates close
Jewels more rich than Ormus* shows;
He makes the figs our mouths to meet,
And throws the melons at our feet,
But apples° plants of such a price,
No tree could ever bear them twice;
With cedars, chosen by His hand,
From Lebanon, He stores the land;
And makes the hollow seas, that roar,
Proclaim the ambergris on shore;
He cast (of which we rather boast)
The Gospel's pearl upon our coast,
And in these rocks for us did frame
A temple, where to sound His name.
Oh, let our voice His praise exalt
Till it arrive at Heaven's vault,
Which thence (perhaps) rebounding, may
Echo beyond the Mexique Bay."

Thus sung they, in the English boat,
An holy and a cheerful note,
And all the way, to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept their time.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
The Bermudas, originally the uninhabited Somers' Isles, named after the man who discovered them, are said to comprise 365 islands and islets. Bermuda has an area of 21 sq. miles. It is in the Atlantic in the Sargasso Sea, and certainly not in the Gulf of Mexico as in Marvell's poem. These days the "unespied" islands are famous for the capital Hamilton's Front Street shops, the thousands of buzzing mopeds, the 20mph island wide speed limit, the British-style bobbies on point duty, the manicured golf courses, banking, pharmaceuticals, the Newport-Bermuda Yacht Race and the hoards of college week tourists from Boston.
For the words 'He' and 'His' I've taken the liberty of using an upper case H throughout and made some minor modifications to words like list'ning, th' and wat'ry.


  1. This poem is one of my favorites, and some of Wallace Stevens' marine imagery may be descended from this poem, I think.

  2. Susan, I'm so glad you mentioned that because it gives me the opportunity in my next PiR post to return to explore the Wallace Stevens - R S Thomas connection which I've explored on here before. The avid Wallace reader, RST, in his church beside the sea, explored the subject of God, Man and Sea.
    Best of bardic,


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