Well have you called yourself the Ocean of Mercy—
For your shadow the sea has now rejected us,
Flinging us up on this inhospitable beach
Without even the ragged sail which protected us.
We know that a thousand times we have disobeyed you,
And a thousand times you have lovingly corrected us.
But it was not that we willfully turned aside,
But a sickle shape promising reaping that deflected us.
Our greatest error, Beloved, was our presumption
That out of this teeming world you had selected us
To carry your message and sing your songs in the sun,
And our secret desire that men respected us.
How faithful to you is your shadow, even this sea;
Impartially it has judged and rejected us.
A bit of a shock at the start which needs thinking – mercy as well as rejection? Whilst voyaging we have had lots of failures and needed correction. But these were deflections rather than the turning aside from the quest. We were deflected by a ‘sickle shape’. A premature attraction to a reaping of reward. Sickle shape also suggests the light from a partial moon, unable to fully reflect the sun and attracting us away from the path of the sun.
But this is different, this is the pride of somehow being special, selected out of the swarm of the generality of people, a wanting to be praised. The ocean, the unlimited world of events has rightly rejected us, mercifully ready to expunge all our self-satisfaction in an ignominious shipwreck disaster.
Just the grim humour of despair here, no whingeing allowed. the poem ends as it begun, in the brutal but necessary rejection.