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Pools of wonder

In one of the local coves lies a broken hull, cast up by perigeal tide into the salt hay. Some say it is the scow "Princess," used around the turn of the century to drift freight up an estuary to interior ports. But to me it is "Le Bateau Ivre" of Arthur Rimbaud's poem, written, by the way, when the poet was only fifteen.

I cannot explain why I should choose this particular hull to identify with the poem, but then I cannot say why I am drawn to that poem and to the rivers and the beaches and the wetlands wherever I live.

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Perhaps the sea forces me to quiet and contemplative. Its waves can boom ashore or sigh against the sands of a beach. It uses a language of sounds which I imagine I might understand if I listened long and carefully. In its way the sea serves as a friend who is satisfied with what it knows and concedes what I know. I can sit quietly beside it for hours and find the peace of mind so neccessary for creative work of any kind. Small wonder the Irish priests cast themselves adrift in hide-covered currachs to be carried by currents and winds ever northward to Iceland. They found in the vastness around them a world that could not reflect man's vanity.

What a wonder our oceans are! Their horizons show us th curve of the earth and make us feel the arch of our own souls. The sea seeps into the most convincing verses and the noblest sentences. Masefield and the old salts of Devon spoke of a "sea-fever." Yes, it burned in men like Captain Joshua Slocum, home from a sail around the world in the "Spray" and peddling his memories at country fairs; in Robert Louis Stevenson, whose wife gave her husband's charts of the South Pacific to Slocum when he happened by. It has put other literary men and women, like Joseph Conrad and Sara Orne Jewett, in touch with their bent. It lured them to go in search of the exotic, which then crystallized into poetry and prose.

Now we learn from our environmentalists that the wetlands, which Rimbaud called "enorme masses/Qui pourrit dans les joncs tout un Leviathan,"m the shores, the seas, which have their counterparts in our literature and in our inner consciousness, are threatened. If they are to be saved from the misuse already spoiling great bodies of water like Lake Erie and even the Mediterranean Sea, we must act promptly. We must reluctantly awaken from our poetic concepts, which are so incorruptible, and become defenders of the physical coast, that source of sustenance for the world and also of the best image for the infinitude within us.

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