“The Calling of the Sea”

Considering that I am currently in the midst of Hurricane Sandy, today’s post will be brief.  I expect to lose power at any minute so want to get this online before that happens.  Given the raw power of nature we are observing today, it seems appropriate to reprint one of WHH’s poems about the sea.  Granted, WHH will never be mistaken for Shakespeare or Lord Byron, he did write some very enjoyable poems and this is one of them.  “The Calling of the Sea” was never published during Hodgson’s lifetime so we have no way of determining when it was written.  It was included in a volume of poetry published by Hodgson’s widow in 1920.  The collection takes its name from this poem and the majority of other poems in the volume are also concerned with the sea.  While we wait out the hurricane, I submit this poem in memory of those who have gone down to the sea in ships.


Hark! The voice of the Ocean is calling,

With an insistence

Sad and appalling,

Scorning resistance,

Out from the steepness

Of the great deepness

Lying in fathoms below that cold dress;

Where, in their starkness,

Smothered in darkness,

Like the dead, seeming

Silently dreaming,

Clasped in the strength of the Ocean’s caress.

What are the words said?

Have any caught them?

Are they the whisperings of the long-dead?

List, while the tides stem,

Liquid and sable,

Over the cable,

Sobbing and moaning some solemn decree.

Listen at midnight,

Over the lee-rail,

Under the moonlight,

Unto the sad wail;

Listen – be still!

Chance thus some mariner gather at will

Some tiny gleaning

Of the deep meaning,

Spoken forever,

Understood never,

In the low voice that calls out on his lee,

In the sad voice that cries out in the wake,

In that wild calling so cold and so dree.

Still, as the years go,

Lonely ships sailing

(Under the lee-strake)

Hear that slow wailing

Rise from below;

Yet none is able,

On the wide Ocean,

O’er the great surface of the deep sea,

Tossed by the motion

Of its wild waters,

Now, or forever, to tell unto me

What it is saying,

Jeering or praying,

Or whispering warnings

Unto its daughters

Of somber dawnings

Ushering mornings

Pregnant with terrors the dead only see.



Filed under William Hope Hodgson

3 responses to ““The Calling of the Sea”

  1. Eric

    So you’re being hit by the hurricane? Wow. I hope you’re doing okay. For what it’s worth, I’ll be keeping you and yours in my prayers until this whole thing passes over.

    • Thanks for the good thoughts! We actually didn’t get too much of the storm in RI although the coastal area did get hit pretty hard with a lot of flooding. Where I live, however, we got through pretty well!

  2. Micky

    I am no poetry expert (in actual fact I read none at all) but for my money Hodgson’s poems seem to be very simple in their construction, compared to the few pieces of poetry I read once upon a time (T.L.Beddoes, Poe, some crap by Lovecraft). At least I think so because I can understand virtually everything what WHH says in his poetry which I cannot tell about the poets I have mentioned above.

    As for The Calling Of The Sea, the fact is I was no sea horror story fan but my favourite wirter W.W. Hodgson bent my ear so long by his excellent description of the life at sea and the sea horrors that the sea-stuff (at least some of it) has grown on me gradually.

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