Going Down to the Sea in Ships

23Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters;

24they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep.

25For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.

26They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity;

27they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end.

28Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress;

29he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

30Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.

{Psalm 107, nrsv}

{image via wikipedia}
{image via wikipedia}

I am reading a wonderful book called In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick, and it’s so good that he’s nearly convinced me finally to give finishing Moby-Dick another, well, harpoon. There’s something about stories of adventure, especially on the sea–Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing is another favorite–that I love. They don’t make me want to go to sea, exactly, just to think about it. My favorite Harriet Beecher Stowe novel, The Minister’s Wooing, deals a lot with seafaring, as do many others of her stories, perhaps because her sister’s fiance was lost at sea when Harriet was still quite young.

What is it about the sea that captures the imagination of adventurers and storytellers? Is it, as the Cambridge Old English Reader comments on one of the oldest English poems ‘Seafarer,’ that stories of the sea remind us “where our true home lies” and help us “concentrate on getting there”?

2 thoughts on “Going Down to the Sea in Ships

  1. I grew up on the northern California coast, where the seas are often too rough to enter. The water’s inherent power is intoxicating in the truest sense of the word: it is almost enough to drive one mad as if with drink. I like going back for that drink, knowing that God is the one who commands the sea. (Job 38:8-11, Luke 8:22-25.)

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