History Poems - Poems For History

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The Sea Is History - Poem by Derek Walcott

Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that gray vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.

First, there was the heaving oil,
heavy as chaos;
then, likea light at the end of a tunnel,

the lantern of a caravel,
and that was Genesis.
Then there were the packed cries,
the shit, the moaning:

Exodus.
Bone soldered by coral to bone,
mosaics
mantled by the benediction of the shark's shadow,

that was the Ark of the Covenant.
Then came from the plucked wires
of sunlight on the sea floor

the plangent harp of the Babylonian bondage,
as the white cowries clustered like manacles
on the drowned women,

and those were the ivory bracelets
of the Song of Solomon,
but the ocean kept turning blank pages

looking for History.
Then came the men with eyes heavy as anchors
who sank without tombs,

brigands who barbecued cattle,
leaving their charred ribs like palm leaves on the shore,
then the foaming, rabid maw

of the tidal wave swallowing Port Royal,
and that was Jonah,
but where is your Renaissance?

Sir, it is locked in them sea sands
out there past the reef's moiling shelf,
where the men-o'-war floated down;

strop on these goggles, I'll guide you there myself.
It's all subtle and submarine,
through colonnades of coral,

past the gothic windows of sea fans
to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyed,
blinks, weighted by its jewels, like a bald queen;

and these groined caves with barnacles
pitted like stone
are our cathedrals,

and the furnace before the hurricanes:
Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills
into marl and cornmeal,

and that was Lamentations -
that was just Lamentations,
it was not History;

then came, like scum on the river's drying lip,
the brown reeds of villages
mantling and congealing into towns,

and at evening, the midges' choirs,
and above them, the spires
lancing the side of God

as His son set, and that was the New Testament.

Then came the white sisters clapping
to the waves' progress,
and that was Emancipation -

jubilation, O jubilation -
vanishing swiftly
as the sea's lace dries in the sun,

but that was not History,
that was only faith,
and then each rock broke into its own nation;

then came the synod of flies,
then came the secretarial heron,
then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote,

fireflies with bright ideas
and bats like jetting ambassadors
and the mantis, like khaki police,

and the furred caterpillars of judges
examining each case closely,
and then in the dark ears of ferns

and in the salt chuckle of rocks
with their sea pools, there was the sound
like a rumour without any echo

of History, really beginning.

Comments about The Sea Is History by Derek Walcott

  • Joseph Dickson 6/3/2020 1:06:00 AM

    good i like this i like all nature Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Sweeney Prufrock 8/9/2019 10:49:00 PM

    Am I the only one reading slavery/emancipation/civil rights into this? Reply

    2 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Jamie G 10/30/2018 4:31:00 AM

    Yap Yap Yap Fantastic Work Reply

    1 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Robin Rambles On 8/24/2018 6:16:00 AM

    I love rocks and nature you brought the words nicely together thanks Reply

    3 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Sarah Daclan 7/10/2018 5:22:00 AM

    Ive been searching poems about history and I found this, great poem love it. Reply

    4 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Carlos Echeverria 1/8/2018 7:25:00 PM

    I read this poem out loud and the words came out of me from depths of my being, like they were written in me before I was born. Reply

    5 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Bernard F. Asuncion 1/8/2018 4:22:00 PM

    Such an interesting write by Derek Walcott👍👍👍 Reply

    4 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Edward Kofi Louis 1/8/2018 11:25:00 AM

    Heavy as chaos! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. Reply

    4 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Glen Kappy 1/8/2018 6:58:00 AM

    My first time reading this. For me it’s impressive as a sustained metaphor and for its descriptions of things in the sea and parallels of them to things above. -GK Reply

    1 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Ramesh T A 1/8/2018 1:54:00 AM

    Treasure of history is within sea! Many are unearthed and many more need to be found out to know human origin still and so, history has begun indeed! Reply

    1 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
Read all 16 comments »
History Poems
  1. 1. The Sea Is History
    Derek Walcott
  2. 2. Ancient History
    Siegfried Sassoon
  3. 3. History
    Robert Lowell
  4. 4. History Lesson
    Steve Turner
  5. 5. Pre-History
    Sulaiman Mohd Yusof
  6. 6. Madam's Past History
    Langston Hughes
  7. 7. Post- History
    Sulaiman Mohd Yusof
  8. 8. A Summary History Of Lord Clive
    William Topaz McGonagall
  9. 9. A Worker Reads History
    Bertolt Brecht
  10. 10. Welsh History
    Ronald Stuart Thomas
  11. 11. ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' Walkin..
    Dónall Dempsey
  12. 12. Avoiding History
    Jesse Weiner
  13. 13. ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' An Haiku His..
    Dónall Dempsey
  14. 14. Limerick: There Was A Young Person Whose..
    Edward Lear
  15. 15. ' ' ' History Lesson For A Schoolteacher
    Dónall Dempsey
  16. 16. I Don'T Know If History Repeats Itself
    Yehuda Amichai
  17. 17. Unfinished History
    Archibald MacLeish
  18. 18. Fable Or History
    Victor Marie Hugo
  19. 19. After Reading Trollope's History Of Flor..
    Eugene Field
  20. 20. On A Celebrated Event In Ancient History
    William Wordsworth
  21. 21. History Teaches Us...
    Michael Shepherd
  22. 22. History Of The Airplane
    Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  23. 23. The History Of Now
    David SmithWhite
  24. 24. Confrontational History
    Frederick Kesner
  25. 25. Love's History
    George MacDonald
  26. 26. History
    William Watson
  27. 27. An Ode, On Reading Mr. Richardson's Hist..
    William Cowper
  28. 28. The Summary History Of Sir William Wallace
    William Topaz McGonagall
  29. 29. Anonymity For History?
    Tara McH
  30. 30. Limerick For St. Patrick's Day 2011 - A ..
    Chuck Audette
  31. 31. This Day In History-Sep 11 2008 -Wael Mo..
    WAEL MOREICHEH
  32. 32. The Bible As The Oldest Egalitarian Docu..
    Lonnie Hicks
  33. 33. A Date With Mem-Sahib...History With Che..
    saadat tahir
  34. 34. History
    Robert Laurence Binyon
  35. 35. Restoration From History - Wael More..
    WAEL MOREICHEH
  36. 36. A Short History Of Pain
    David Kowalczyk
  37. 37. Brief History Of Photography(That Was Th..
    Dónall Dempsey
  38. 38. St. Patrick (History History History H..
    Udiah (witness to Yah)
  39. 39. Forest History
    George Meredith
  40. 40. Black History Month
    Lawrence S. Pertillar
  41. 41. History Past Life
    Paul Moosberg
  42. 42. A Lesson In History...
    (brief renderings) Joe Fazio
  43. 43. A History Of Dragons
    Glaedr the poet
  44. 44. ! ! ! ! A Leaf From History! ! ! !
    Mamta Agarwal
  45. 45. My History Teacher
    Gabriella Franco
  46. 46. I Am Apart Of History
    Jeanette Matthews
  47. 47. The History Of Jazz
    Kenneth Koch
  48. 48. History!
    Lovina Sylvia Chidi
  49. 49. Recent History
    Max Reif
  50. 50. Black History Month
    Khai Ramsey

History Poems

  1. History

    History has to live with what was here, clutching and close to fumbling all we had-- it is so dull and gruesome how we die, unlike writing, life never finishes. Abel was finished; death is not remote, a flash-in-the-pan electrifies the skeptic, his cows crowding like skulls against high-voltage wire, his baby crying all night like a new machine. As in our Bibles, white-faced, predatory, the beautiful, mist-drunken hunter's moon ascends-- a child could give it a face: two holes, two holes, my eyes, my mouth, between them a skull's no-nose-- O there's a terrifying innocence in my face drenched with the silver salvage of the mornfrost.

  2. Ancient History

    Adam, a brown old vulture in the rain, Shivered below his wind-whipped olive-trees; Huddling sharp chin on scarred and scraggy knees, He moaned and mumbled to his darkening brain; ‘He was the grandest of them all was Cain! ‘A lion laired in the hills, that none could tire: ‘Swift as a stag: a stallion of the plain, ‘Hungry and fierce with deeds of huge desire.’ Grimly he thought of Abel, soft and fair A lover with disaster in his face, And scarlet blossom twisted in bright hair. ‘Afraid to fight; was murder more disgrace?’ ‘God always hated Cain’ He bowed his head The gaunt wild man whose lovely sons were dead.

  3. History Lesson

    History repeats itself. Has to. No-one listens.

  4. Pre-History

    Something in the head freezes the mind. If I could rip open my brain and alter the egoism and atrocities beneath, some lives could have been saved. Or perhaps, I’d just bury the brain. End of genocide.