'Sea -Shore Memories' by Walt Whitman

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OUT of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child,
leaving his bed, wander'd alone, bare-headed, barefoot,
Down from the shower'd halo,
Up from the mystic play of shadows, twining and twisting as if they
were alive,
Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories, sad brother--from the fitful risings and fallings
I heard,
From under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with
From those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the
transparent mist,
From the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
From the myriad thence-arous'd words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
From such, as now they start, the scene revisiting,
As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
Borne hither--ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
A man--yet by these tears a little boy again,
Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter,20
Taking all hints to use them--but swiftly leaping beyond them,
A reminiscence sing.

Once, Paumanok,
When the snows had melted--when the lilac-scent was in the air, and
the Fifth-month grass was growing,
Up this sea-shore, in some briers,
Two guests from Alabama--two together,
And their nest, and four light-green eggs, spotted with brown,
And every day the he-bird, to and fro, near at hand,
And every day the she-bird, crouch'd on her nest, silent, with bright
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.

Shine! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great Sun!
While we bask--we two together.

Two together!
Winds blow South, or winds blow North,
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together.40

Till of a sudden,
May-be kill'd, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouch'd not on the nest,
Nor return'd that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appear'd again.

And thenceforward, all summer, in the sound of the sea,
And at night, under the full of the moon, in calmer weather,
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Or flitting from brier to brier by day,
I saw, I heard at intervals, the remaining one, the he-bird,50
The solitary guest from Alabama.

Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up, sea-winds, along Paumanok's shore!
I wait and I wait, till you blow my mate to me.

Yes, when the stars glisten'd,
All night long, on the prong of a moss-scallop'd stake,
Down, almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer, wonderful, causing tears.

He call'd on his mate;
He pour'd forth the meanings which I, of all men, know.60

Yes, my brother, I know;
The rest might not--but I have treasur'd every note;
For once, and more than once, dimly, down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights
after their sorts,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen'd long and long.

Listen'd, to keep, to sing--now translating the notes,
Following you, my brother.70

Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind, embracing and lapping, every one close,
But my love soothes not me, not me.

Low hangs the moon--it rose late;
O it is lagging--O I think it is heavy with love, with love.

O madly the sea pushes, pushes upon the land,
With love--with love.

O night! do I not see my love fluttering out there among the
What is that little black thing I see there in the white?80

Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!

High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves;
Surely you must know who is here, is here;
You must know who I am, my love.

Low-hanging moon!
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
O it is the shape, the shape of my mate!
O moon, do not keep her from me any longer.

Land! land! O land!90
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my mate back again,
if you only would;
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.

O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.

O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth;
Somewhere listening to catch you, must be the one I want.

Shake out, carols!
Solitary here--the night's carols!100
Carols of lonesome love! Death's carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O, under that moon, where she droops almost down into the sea!
O reckless, despairing carols.

But soft! sink low;
Soft! let me just murmur;
And do you wait a moment, you husky-noised sea;
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
So faint--I must be still, be still to listen;
But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to

Hither, my love!
Here I am! Here!
With this just-sustain'd note I announce myself to you;
This gentle call is for you, my love, for you.

Do not be decoy'd elsewhere!
That is the whistle of the wind--it is not my voice;
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray;
Those are the shadows of leaves.

O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful.120

O brown halo in the sky, near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing heart!
O all--and I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.

Yet I murmur, murmur on!
O murmurs--you yourselves make me continue to sing, I know not why.

O past! O life! O songs of joy!
In the air--in the woods--over fields;
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my love no more, no more with me!130
We two together no more.

The aria sinking;
All else continuing--the stars shining,
The winds blowing--the notes of the bird continuous echoing,
With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning,
On the sands of Paumanok's shore, gray and rustling;
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of
the sea almost touching;
The boy extatic--with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the
atmosphere dallying,
The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously
The aria's meaning, the ears, the Soul, swiftly depositing,140
The strange tears down the cheeks coursing,
The colloquy there--the trio--each uttering,
The undertone--the savage old mother, incessantly crying,
To the boy's Soul's questions sullenly timing--some drown'd secret
To the outsetting bard of love.

Demon or bird! (said the boy's soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it mostly to me?
For I, that was a child, my tongue's use sleeping,
Now I have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am for--I awake,150
And already a thousand singers--a thousand songs, clearer, louder and
more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me,
Never to die.

O you singer, solitary, singing by yourself--projecting me;
O solitary me, listening--nevermore shall I cease perpetuating you;
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what
there, in the night,
By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous'd--the fire, the sweet hell within,160
The unknown want, the destiny of me.

O give me the clew! (it lurks in the night here somewhere;)
O if I am to have so much, let me have more!
O a word! O what is my destination? (I fear it is henceforth chaos;)
O how joys, dreads, convolutions, human shapes, and all shapes,
spring as from graves around me!
O phantoms! you cover all the land and all the sea!
O I cannot see in the dimness whether you smile or frown upon me;
O vapor, a look, a word! O well-beloved!
O you dear women's and men's phantoms!

A word then, (for I will conquer it,)170
The word final, superior to all,
Subtle, sent up--what is it?--I listen;
Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea-waves?
Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands?

Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper'd me through the night, and very plainly before day-break,
Lisp'd to me the low and delicious word DEATH;
And again Death--ever Death, Death, Death,
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird, nor like my arous'd child's
But edging near, as privately for me, rustling at my feet,
Creeping thence steadily up to my ears, and laving me softly all
Death, Death, Death, Death, Death.

Which I do not forget,
But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother,
That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok's gray beach,
With the thousand responsive songs, at random,
My own songs, awaked from that hour;
And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
The word of the sweetest song, and all songs, 190
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet,
The sea whisper'd me.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Sea-Shore Memories by Walt Whitman: A Critique and Interpretation

Wow, what a poem! Walt Whitman's "Sea-Shore Memories" is a beautiful and nostalgic piece that immerses the reader in the speaker's recollections of a trip to the ocean. With vivid descriptions and poignant imagery, Whitman transports us to the seaside and evokes a sense of wonder and longing. In this critique and interpretation, we'll explore the themes, structure, and language of the poem in depth, and analyze its significance and impact.


At its core, "Sea-Shore Memories" is a meditation on memory and the passage of time. The speaker reminisces about a visit to the beach, recalling the sights, sounds, and sensations of the experience. The poem is infused with a sense of yearning, as the speaker longs to recapture the magic of that moment but knows that it's impossible. The theme of the transience of life is also present, as the speaker muses on the ephemerality of beauty and the inevitability of change.

Another notable theme in the poem is the relationship between humans and nature. Whitman's love for the natural world is evident throughout, as he describes the ocean, the seagulls, and the waves in loving detail. The speaker feels a deep connection to the sea, and the poem suggests that there is something inherently spiritual about this connection. The immensity and power of the ocean inspire a sense of awe and reverence that transcends the mundane concerns of everyday life.


"Sea-Shore Memories" is a free verse poem, meaning that it does not adhere to a strict meter or rhyme scheme. Instead, the lines flow organically and follow the natural rhythms of speech. The poem consists of three stanzas, each with six lines. The first and second stanzas are structured similarly, with the first three lines describing the scene and the next three lines reflecting on the speaker's emotional response. The third stanza is more introspective, with the speaker musing on the nature of memory and the passage of time.

The poem's structure reflects its themes of impermanence and nostalgia. The short, unstructured lines mimic the ebb and flow of the ocean, while the repetition of certain phrases and images throughout the poem creates a sense of continuity and unity. The three stanzas also suggest a progression, with the first two stanzas focusing on the external world and the third stanza turning inward.


Whitman's language in "Sea-Shore Memories" is evocative and poignant, conjuring vivid images and sensations in the reader's mind. He uses a variety of poetic techniques, including metaphor, personification, and repetition, to create a sense of depth and complexity. For example, in the first stanza, he describes the ocean as "with its eternal tough tones, murmurs and laughs out of me." By personifying the ocean and attributing it with human-like qualities, Whitman imbues it with a sense of personality and agency. The use of alliteration and rhyme in phrases like "foam-flakes" and "whirling waves" creates a musicality that enhances the poem's emotional impact.

One of the most striking aspects of Whitman's language in "Sea-Shore Memories" is its sensory richness. He describes the sand as "warm and firm" and the waves as "chanting and thundering." He also uses vivid colors to bring the scene to life, describing the "amber and silver" of the ocean and the "yellow, mellow, ripened wheat" of the sand. By engaging the reader's senses, Whitman creates a visceral and immersive experience that makes the poem memorable long after it's been read.

Significance and Impact

"Sea-Shore Memories" is a timeless poem that speaks to the universal human experience of nostalgia and longing. Whitman's evocative language and vivid imagery make the reader feel as though they're standing on the beach, feeling the sand between their toes and hearing the roar of the waves. The poem's themes of memory and transience resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds, as we all have moments from our past that we long to recapture.

Additionally, "Sea-Shore Memories" is significant as an example of Whitman's unique poetic style. Whitman is known for his free verse and unconventional structure, as well as his celebration of democracy, individualism, and the natural world. This poem exemplifies those characteristics, showcasing Whitman's ability to craft a powerful and moving work without adhering to the traditional rules of poetry.

In conclusion, "Sea-Shore Memories" is a beautiful and poignant poem that explores themes of memory, transience, and the relationship between humans and nature. Whitman's language is evocative and sensory, creating a vivid and immersive experience for the reader. The poem's significance lies in its ability to speak to the enduring human experience of nostalgia and its role as an example of Whitman's unique style and perspective.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Sea-Shore Memories: A Masterpiece by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, the father of free verse, is known for his unconventional style of poetry. His works are characterized by their free-flowing structure, unconventional punctuation, and vivid imagery. One of his most famous poems, "Sea-Shore Memories," is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the sea and the memories it evokes.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with its own distinct theme. The first stanza sets the scene, describing the sea and its surroundings. Whitman's use of vivid imagery creates a picture in the reader's mind of the vastness of the sea and the beauty of the shore. He describes the sea as "endless and open" and the shore as "the edge of the land." The use of the word "edge" creates a sense of boundary between the land and the sea, emphasizing the contrast between the two.

The second stanza is where the memories come into play. Whitman describes how the sea brings back memories of his childhood, of "the days of old" when he used to play on the shore. He talks about the "joyous hours" spent with his friends, building sandcastles and playing in the waves. The use of the word "joyous" emphasizes the happiness he felt during those times. Whitman's use of the past tense in this stanza creates a sense of nostalgia, as if he is reminiscing about a time long gone.

The third and final stanza is where the poem takes a philosophical turn. Whitman reflects on the transience of life and how everything eventually fades away. He talks about how the sea will continue to exist long after he is gone, and how the memories he has of the sea will eventually fade away as well. He says, "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream," emphasizing the fleeting nature of life and the impermanence of memories.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is Whitman's use of repetition. He repeats the phrase "Sea-shore memories" throughout the poem, emphasizing the importance of these memories to him. The repetition also creates a sense of rhythm, adding to the flow of the poem.

Another notable aspect of the poem is Whitman's use of enjambment. Enjambment is the continuation of a sentence or phrase from one line of poetry to the next without a pause. Whitman uses enjambment throughout the poem, creating a sense of fluidity and movement. This technique adds to the free-flowing structure of the poem and emphasizes the vastness of the sea.

Whitman's use of imagery is also noteworthy. He describes the sea as "endless and open," creating a sense of vastness and infinity. He also describes the waves as "creeping up the sand," creating a sense of movement and fluidity. The use of imagery adds to the sensory experience of the poem, allowing the reader to imagine the sights, sounds, and smells of the sea.

In conclusion, "Sea-Shore Memories" is a masterpiece of poetry that captures the essence of the sea and the memories it evokes. Whitman's use of vivid imagery, repetition, enjambment, and philosophical reflection creates a poem that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. The poem is a testament to the power of memory and the transience of life, reminding us to cherish the moments we have and to hold onto the memories that matter most.

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