Reading List: Maritime Adventures

"A Ship Aground" (1828), William Turner.

“A Ship Aground” (1828), William Turner.

There is something about the open ocean that has intrigued artists since man first learned to build a boat. Surviving at sea is a battle with nature, with the gods, with your other crew members, or with yourself (and if you’re Odysseus, all of them at once).

The Odyssey (8th century BC), Homer

Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves- in their depravity- design
grief greater than the griefs that fate assigns.

Moby-Dick (1851), Herman Melville

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

Master and Commander (1969), Patrick O’Brian

Trollops are capital things in port, but will not do at sea.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (1870), Jules Verne

The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the Living Infinite.

Lord Jim (1900), Joseph Conrad

Vanity plays lurid tricks with our memory, and the truth of every passion wants some pretence to make it live.

The Horatio Hornblower series (1937 – 1967), C.S. Forester

Clairvoyant, Hornblower could foresee that in a year’s time, the world would hardy remember the incident. In twenty years, it would be entirely forgotten. Yet those headless corpses up there in Muzillac; those shattered redcoats; those Frenchmen caught in the four-pounder’s blast of canister — they were as dead as if it had been a day in which history had been changed.

The Old Man and the Sea (1952), Ernest Hemingway

He always thought of the sea as ‘la mar’ which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (The Chronicles of Narnia series, 1952), C.S. Lewis

Ah, you’ve come over the water. Powerful wet stuff, ain’t it?

Life of Pi (2001), Yann Martel

The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity; it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.

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