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:

Bone soldered by coral to bone,
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

  • Rookie 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. (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 182,491 Points Bernard F. Asuncion (1/8/2018 4:22:00 PM)

    Such an interesting write by Derek Walcott👍👍👍 (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 366,190 Points Edward Kofi Louis (1/8/2018 11:25:00 AM)

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

Read all 12 comments »

Poems About History

  1. 1. The Sea Is History , Derek Walcott
  2. 2. Ancient History , Siegfried Sassoon
  3. 3. History , Robert Lowell
  4. 4. Madam's Past History , Langston Hughes
  5. 5. Pre-History , Sulaiman Mohd Yusof
  6. 6. Post- History , Sulaiman Mohd Yusof
  7. 7. History Lesson , Steve Turner
  8. 8. A Worker Reads History , Bertolt Brecht
  9. 9. Welsh History , Ronald Stuart Thomas
  10. 10. ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' Walkin.. , Dónall Dempsey
  11. 11. Avoiding History , Jesse Weiner
  12. 12. I Don'T Know If History Repeats Itself , Yehuda Amichai
  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. History Of The Airplane , Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  17. 17. A Summary History Of Lord Clive , William Topaz McGonagall
  18. 18. Unfinished History , Archibald MacLeish
  19. 19. Fable Or History , Victor Marie Hugo
  20. 20. After Reading Trollope's History Of Flor.. , Eugene Field
  21. 21. On A Celebrated Event In Ancient History , William Wordsworth
  22. 22. History Teaches Us... , Michael Shepherd
  23. 23. Limerick For St. Patrick's Day 2011 - A .. , Chuck Audette
  24. 24. Confrontational History , Frederick Kesner
  25. 25. Love's History , George MacDonald
  26. 26. History , William Watson
  27. 27. The Bible As The Oldest Egalitarian Docu.. , Lonnie Hicks
  28. 28. History , Robert Laurence Binyon
  29. 29. An Ode, On Reading Mr. Richardson's Hist.. , William Cowper
  30. 30. Forest History , George Meredith
  31. 31. Let History Be My Judge , WH Auden
  32. 32. The Summary History Of Sir William Wallace , William Topaz McGonagall
  33. 33. A Lesson In History... , (brief renderings) Joe Fazio
  34. 34. Anonymity For History? , Tara McH
  35. 35. The History Of Now , David SmithWhite
  36. 36. A Date With Mem-Sahib...History With Che.. , saadat tahir
  37. 37. This Day In History-Sep 11 2008 -Wael Mo.. , WAEL MOREICHEH
  38. 38. Restoration From History - Wael More.. , WAEL MOREICHEH
  39. 39. History? , (brief renderings) Joe Fazio
  40. 40. A Short History Of Pain , David Kowalczyk
  41. 41. Brief History Of Photography(That Was Th.. , Dónall Dempsey
  42. 42. A History Of Sorts , Charles M Moore
  43. 43. St. Patrick (History History History H.. , Udiah (witness to Yah)
  44. 44. Written In The Beginning Of Mezeray's Hi.. , Matthew Prior
  45. 45. Black History Month , Lawrence S. Pertillar
  46. 46. History Past Life , Paul Moosberg
  47. 47. The Spider’s Web ( A Natural History) , E.B. White
  48. 48. A History Of Dragons , Glaedr the poet
  49. 49. ! ! ! ! A Leaf From History! ! ! ! , Mamta Agarwal
  50. 50. My History Teacher , Gabriella Franco
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