Break, Break, Break


Trying to extract something useful from a table which some numb-bloody-nuts had pied the column headers on, I push back in my wheelie-chair and decide to take a break… Break, break, break, On thy cold grey stones, O sea And I would that my tongue could utter The thoughts that arise in me.. 

Holy Shit. I was eleven years old when my fourth-form primary teacher read that to the class. Thank you, Mr.Lillington.

Why has it never left me, despite not being referenced for decades?

Skipping down the back stairs, I remember that my son has done something like that, this morning on Facebook, with the first line of a poem by Sara Teasdale “There will come soft rains”

Then he appears to have lost the rest of it, to come back with

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools, singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,

If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,

Would scarcely know that we were gone.


Entirely appropriate to the subject he was referencing and very beautiful, too. Often these days we think of poetry as some kind of lyric to be set to Swedish Death Metal or Dark NeoFolk. But poetry, although apparently accessible to far fewer people than pop songs, has a staying power in the soul and a poignancy of its own. As if, perhaps, the very act of pulling words into beauty without a soundtrack was all the more the work of spirit’s genius.   And the rest of that poem I recalled this morning? Here it is:

Break, break, break,On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!

And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman’s boy,

That he shouts with his sister at play!

O, well for the sailor lad,

That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on

To their haven under the hill;

But O for the touch of a vanished hand,

And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,

At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!

But the tender grace of a day that is dead

Will never come back to me.

2 responses to “Break, Break, Break

  1. I too remember that poem, and it sometimes comes back to me. I also enjoyed a book of parodies called Quake, quake, quake, which I read about 50 years ago. Most of them dealt with the Cold War, then at its height.

    Hey diddle diddle, The physicists fiddle
    The rocket jumped over the moon
    The little dog laughed to see such sport
    And died the following June.

    Liked by 1 person

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