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‘The Sea’ is a short lyric poem written by James Reeves. As the title suggests, the poem talks about the sea, describing it with an unusual comparison to an animal, dog.
About the Poet:
James Reeves (1909-1978) was a prominent British author. He works were mainly poetry and children’s literature. Famous works of his include ‘The Wandering Moon’, ‘The Everlasting Circle’ and ‘The Blackbird in the Lilac’.
The theme of this poem again is the sea. The poet delves deep into describing the sea, its characteristics being compared to that of a dog.
This is a short, lyric poem. It is divided into three stanzas of varying length. Its rhyme scheme too varies. The first stanza has the rhyme scheme of a bb cc ddd c. The second stanza has f ghhg while the third has iii c jj.
The sea is a hungry dog, Giant and grey. He rolls on the beach all day. With his clashing teeth and shaggy jaws Hour upon hour he gnaws The rumbling, tumbling stones, And 'Bones, bones, bones, bones!’ The giant sea-dog moans, Licking his greasy paws.
The poem begins with the persona comparing the sea to a dog, one that is hungry. This can be seen throughout the entirety of the poem. Here, the persona describes the colour of the sea to the colour of that particular dog- grey. The word ‘big’ here is used to reveal the vastness of the sea, how dangerous it tends to be. The crashing of the waves is compared to how a dog gnashes its jaws, menacingly so. The sound emitted by the sea, lastly, is compared to a dog moaning.
And when the night wind roars And the moon rocks in the stormy cloud, He bounds to his feet and snuffs and sniffs, Shaking his wet sides over the cliffs, And howls and hollos long and loud.
The comparison continues in this stanza. During stormy nights, the sea is compared to a dog that shakes off its wetness to show how it too crashes over the cliffs sloppily, making it wet in the process. Again, the howling of the sea is compared to the howling of a dog.
But on quiet days in May or June, When even the grasses on the dune Play no more their reedy tune, With his head between his paws He lies on the sandy shores, So quiet, so quiet, he scarcely snores.
The poem shifts from storms to pleasant weather in the stanza. The month of May and June are referenced to signify calm weather, when even the grass is quiet. Here, the sea is like a content dog, silently laying its head between his paws. No longer is the sea a hungry dog, rather one that is almost blissfully lazy and quiet.
This is a poem that is unique in nature for it compares the sea with a dog, a seemingly unrelated term. It thus details on the various moods of the sea, how it can both be raging and calm at different times just like a dog would, making way for an interesting perception.