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Derek Walcott’s Sea Grapes – 1

You can find the text of Sea Grapes at


What a wonderful poem it is. It leapt off the page when I reached it in Walcott’s Collected Poems 1948 – 1984. My immediate feeling was that this was the most arrestingly alive and intellectually engaging poem in the volume so far.

What makes it come alive and stay alive so vividly? For me it was first of all that wonderful opening image, the way literal and metaphorical suggestions both played into and clashed with each other. The six words of the first line do so much. The use of “That” gives … Continue Reading

Sea-bathing in Nerval’s Octavie

In Gérard de Nerval’s poignant novella Octavie he describes how he met the “daughter of the waters” Octavie in Marseilles: “Every morning I went sea-bathing at Château-Vert and saw the laughing isles of the gulf far off as I swam. Every day too I met a young English girl in the azure bay whose nimble / agile / slender body parted the green water near me.” “Nimble”, “agile” and “slender” are all translations of Nerval’s word délié when it is used in a literary way. The basic meanings of the verb délier are to untie, to free or to loosen. … Continue Reading