The Sea Far Away

I was trying to recall Ezra Pound’s line, “And men went down to the sea in ships.” Fine, wonderful line, except that’s not what he said. What Pound said, opening “Canto I,” I now recalled, looking it up, was, “And then went down to the ship.” And I was going to say, that if Pound had lived in the South Santa Monica Bay in the 1960’s, he might have said, “And boys went down to the ocean on surfboards.” But that doesn’t quite work now that I’ve corrected my recall. Pound’s sailors “Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea,” while the South Bay surfers of the 60’s, some watermen, some bleached a weak blond on a clean towel far up on the beach, where the waves couldn’t reach them, but still all caught up in the ancient tides that played on the radio and that licked at the western edge of Los Angeles, paddled out on surfboards and set skegs to waves.

Pound does, in “Canto I,” mention a “sea-bord,” and “A man of no fortune,” and this might describe most surfers of the era (sea bored and poor). Still, Pound’s opening in a remote way does invoke the sport, the art, of surfing, for one catches waves not at the beginning of the wave’s life, but at the end of the swell, as it nears the beach: thus, “And then….” And then paddled out and turned around and caught waves back to the beach. Surf: Pound’s “…water mixed with white flour.”

The waves always look smaller from the beach, and from the waves, sitting on the board, the beach looks, as Pound said, “…not as land looks on a map but as sea bord seen by men sailing” (“Canto LIX”).

So what happens to the surfer sea bored? Just this, from Albert Camus’s essay “The Sea Close By”: “I grew up with the sea and poverty for me was sumptuous; then I lost the sea and found all luxuries gray and poverty unbearable. Since then, I have been waiting” (172).

Related:

Albert Camus on the Economic Collapse

8 Comments Add yours

  1. The sea, ah. I’ve never been near the Pacific and Santa Monica Bay. My waters were the lakes and ponds in Bavaria, the Mediterranian, North Atlantic and Indian Ocean. Thanks for evoking your love for the sea and for an introduction of Canto I

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    1. Joe Linker says:

      Ashen: You might like the Camus essay: “‘To sea!’, and across the Indian Ocean into the corridor of the Red Sea, where on silent nights one can hear the desert stones, scorched in the daytime, freeze and crack one by one as we return to the ancient sea in which all cries are hushed.” And, “The sailors’ bare feet beat softly on the deck.”

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      1. Thanks Joe. I’ll explore the Camus essay. I spent several months in Eilat during a film production. Two poems of mine try to encapsulate the place. I placed them temporarily on the poems page on my site, if you find the time to look them up. http://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/poems/

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  2. I love the quote from Camus. What is it about the sea that draws us. Once there, all my troubles just go away. Even when the sea is rough, turbulent and stormy it calms me. I miss the sea, the waves, the beach and everything in between.

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    1. Joe Linker says:

      Barb: And Camus said: “At other times, it’s the opposite, and I am helped. On certain days in New York, lost at the bottom of those stone and steel shafts where millions of men wander, I would run from one shaft to the next, without seeing where they ended, until, exhausted, I was sustained only by the human mass seeking its way out. But, each time, there was the distant honking of a tugboat to remind me that this empty well of a city was an island…”.

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      1. cool. I like the way Camus writes. I can visualize his scenes and I can see myself in them.

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  3. dan hen says:

    I wonder if you still have your surfboard somewhere in your basement . I would bet on it . Nice pictures ! Is that Ezra Pound shooting the curl ? Who else would blog-surf with Ezra Pound ?

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    1. Joe Linker says:

      In the basement of my mind, and my house. Actually, did I ever tell about the time I read the bus with old Ezra? You can read about it here:
      https://joelinker.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/winter-is-icummen-in-lhude-sing-line-15/

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