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About this Poem 

“Sea-Heroes” was first published in Coterie, Number 4, in April 1920. 

Sea-Heroes

Crash on crash of the sea,
straining to wreck men; sea-boards, continents,
raging against the world, furious,
stay at last, for against your fury
and your mad fight,
the line of heroes stands, godlike:

Akroneos, Oknolos, Elatreus,
helm-of-boat, loosener-of-helm, dweller-by-sea,
Nauteus, sea-man,
Prumneos, stern-of-ship,
Agchialos, sea-girt,
Elatreus, oar-shaft:
lover-of-the-sea, lover-of-the-sea-ebb,
lover-of-the-swift-sea,
Ponteus, Proreus, Oöos:
Anabesneos, who breaks to anger
as a wave to froth:
Amphiolos, one caught between
wave-shock and wave-shock:
Eurualos, broad sea-wrack,
like Ares, man’s death,
and Naubolidos, best in shape,
of all first in size:
Phaekous, sea’s thunderbolt—
ah, crash on crash of great names—
man-tamer, man’s-help, perfect Laodamos:
and last the songs of great Alkinöos,
Laodamos, Halios, and god-like Clytomeos.

Of all nations, of all cities,
of all continents,
she is favoured above the rest,
for she gives men as great as the sea,
to battle against the elements and evil:
greater even than the sea,
they live beyond wrack and death of cities,
and each god-like name spoken
is as a shrine in a godless place.

But to name you,
we, reverent, are breathless,
weak with pain and old loss,
and exile and despair—
our hearts break but to speak
your name, Oknaleos—
and may we but call you in the feverish wrack
of our storm-strewn beach, Eretmeos,
our hurt is quiet and our hearts tamed,
as the sea may yet be tamed,
and we vow to float great ships,
named for each hero,
and oar-blades, cut of mountain-trees
as such men might have shaped:
Eretmeos, and the sea is swept,
baffled by the lordly shape,
Akroneos has pines for his ship’s keel;
to love, to mate the sea?
Ah there is Ponteos,
the very deeps roar,
hailing you dear—
they clamour to Ponteos,
and to Proëos
leap, swift to kiss, to curl, to creep,
lover to mistress.

What wave, what love, what foam,
For Oöos who moves swift as the sea?
Ah stay, my heart, the weight
of lovers, of loneliness
drowns me,
alas that their very names
so press to break my heart
with heart-sick weariness,
what would they be,
the very gods,
rearing their mighty length
beside the unharvested sea?

This poem is in the public domain. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

H. D.

H. D.

Born in 1886, Hilda Doolittle was one of the leaders of the Imagist movement. She published numerous poetry collections, including Sea Garden (Constable and Company, 1916) and Helen in Egypt (Grove Press, 1961). She died in 1961.

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Amber husk
fluted with gold,
fruit on the sand
marked with a rich grain,

treasure
spilled near the shrub-pines
to bleach on the boulders:

your stalk has caught root
among wet pebbles
and drift flung by the sea
and grated shells
and split conch-shells.

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I

On the paved parapet
you will step carefully
from amber stones to onyx
flecked with violet,
mingled with light,
half showing the sea-grass
and sea-sand underneath,
reflecting your white feet
and the gay strap crimson
as lily-buds of Arion,
and the gold that

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O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air—
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat—
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.