Throughout this piece, Moore uses a creative metaphor to define what it’s like to lose passion. ‘I Saw From the Beach,’ despite the fact that it was written in the early 1800s, is incredibly effective. It should be relatable to a wide variety of readers. Everyone goes through a similar saying process and most are likely familiar with what it’s like to drift away from something one is particularly passionate about or lose passion or life altogether.
I Saw From the Beach Thomas Moore I saw from the beach, when the morning was shining, A bark o'er the waters move gloriously on; I came when the sun o'er that beach was declining -- The bark was still there, but the waters were gone! And such is the fate of life's early promise, So passing the spring-tide of joy we have known: Each wave that we danc'd on at morning, ebbs from us, And leaves us, at eve, on the bleak shore alone! Ne'er tell me of glories serenely adorning The close of our day, the calm eve of our night; Give me back, give me back the wild freshness of Morning, Her clouds and her tears are worth Evening's best light. Oh, who would not welcome that moment's returning, When passion first wak'd a new life through his frame; And his soul, like the wood that grows precious in burning, Gave out all its sweets to love's exquisite flame!
Explore I Saw From the Beach
‘I Saw From the Beach’ by Thomas Moore addresses life’s passions and compares them, through a metaphor, to the changing tides.
The poet begins by describing a boat on the water. It moves with the tide, beautifully and powerfully at first (in the morning). Then, when the speaker comes back later, the water is gone and the boat is still there. The soul, as symbolized through the boat, remains, but the passion, symbolized through the water, is gone. This is an unstoppable change but one that the speaker wishes the reverse anyway. He pleads to feel something of the passion of youth/morning again.
Structure and Form
‘I Saw From the Beach’ by Thomas Moore is a four-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD, and so on, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. The lines are similar in lengths, ranging from around nine to twelve or thirteen syllables each.
Throughout ‘I Saw From the Beach’ Moore makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Metaphor: a comparison between two things that does not use “like” or “as.” In this case, the poet compares a boat to the human soul and the sea to human passion.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the third stanza.
- Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “bark” and “but” in line four of the first stanza and “close” and “calm” in line two of the third stanza.
I saw from the beach, when the morning was shining,
A bark o’er the waters move gloriously on;
I came when the sun o’er that beach was declining —
The bark was still there, but the waters were gone!
In the first stanza of ‘I Saw From the Beach,’ the speaker begins by noting that he saw “when the morning was shining,” a “bark o’er the waters.” It was moving on the waves smoothly and beautifully. Later in the day, the speaker returned, and the water was gone but the “bark was still there.” In these lines, the word “bark” is used to describe a type of boat that’s sailing on the waves. As the lines progress, it becomes clear that the boat is a metaphor, as is the water itself.
And such is the fate of life’s early promise,
So passing the spring-tide of joy we have known:
Each wave that we danc’d on at morning, ebbs from us,
And leaves us, at eve, on the bleak shore alone!
The second stanza begins with “And such.” This informs the reader that they’re about to encounter a conclusion drawn from the previous lines. He adds that the previous images are meant to represent “the fate of life’s early promise.” As time passes, so to do the “joy[s] we have known.” The waves ebb away from us as time moves into the distance. It “leaves us, at eve, on the bleak shore alone.” The water recedes and the boat is left directionless. This is compared to the way that passion rises and declines eventually leaving us stranded.
Ne’er tell me of glories serenely adorning
The close of our day, the calm eve of our night;
Give me back, give me back the wild freshness of Morning,
Her clouds and her tears are worth Evening’s best light.
The third stanza asks that no one ever tell him “of glories serenely adorning / The close of our day, the calm eve of our night.” He knows well how passions work and how the power of life declines.
In another request, the speaker asks, passionately, that he be returned to the “wild freshness of Morning.” It was in youth that he felt most alive and most passionate. This is a time, represented by Morning, that he’d like to go back to. It would be worth suffering the loss all over again.
Oh, who would not welcome that moment’s returning,
When passion first wak’d a new life through his frame;
And his soul, like the wood that grows precious in burning,
Gave out all its sweets to love’s exquisite flame!
The final lines are a passionate exclamation that celebrates the precious “passion” when it was “first wak’d.” He recalls it from a distance, considering what life used to be like and what it could possibly be like to return there again. There is a clear sense of nostalgia in these lines and deepening mourning. The speaker knows he can’t ever return to this time in his life, but he can’t stop thinking about it.
The purpose is to define passion, youth, and change in an interesting and compelling way. Readers should walk away considering how the ocean of their passion has shifted and if they are stranded, as the bark is, in the first lines of the poem.
The speaker is someone who has experienced life’s ups and downs. They’re lamenting the loss of youthful passion, as represented by morning and the waves of the ocean.
The tone is filled with longing and emotion. The speaker desperately wants to feel the passion of “Morning” or youth again. There is also a sense of mourning in these lines as it’s clear this can’t really happen.
The mood is contemplative and perhaps nostalgic. Readers might find themselves contemplating their own pasts and wondering what it would be like to be young again and full of passion. Alternatively, readers might feel sympathetic after hearing the speaker’s plea.
Readers who enjoyed ‘I Saw From the Beach’ should also consider reading other Thomas Moore poems. For example:
- ‘Thee, Thee, Only Thee’ – describes the state of a speaker’s life as he obsesses over a woman he loves.
Also of interest may be:
- ‘As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life’ by Walt Whitman – uses ocean related imagery to describe a speaker’s investigation into the meaning of life.
- ‘The Depths’ by Denise Levertov – uses contradictions and metaphor to express how multi-layered life can be.
- ‘The River’ by Sara Teasdale – a short and effective poem. It uses a river as a narrator and describes its journey towards the ocean.