Sea Stories: World Below the Brine

Arguably one of the most influential of American poets, Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) is perhaps best known for his (at the time highly controversial) exploration of sex in his poetry collection  "Leaves of Grass". He was a humanist - and a lover of nature.

In his poem "World Below the Brine", Whitman takes us on a journey beneath the sea surface, first to "forests a the bottom of the sea" and eventually ending with the splendour of some of those animals that live beneath the waves.

World Below the Brine

The world below the brine;
Forests at the bottom of the sea—the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds—
the thick tangle, the openings, and the pink turf,
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold—
the play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks—coral, gluten, grass, rushes—
and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there, suspended, or slowly crawling
close to the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface, blowing air and spray, or disporting
with his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard,
and the sting-ray;
Passions there—wars, pursuits, tribes—sight in those ocean-depths—
breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do;
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings
like us, who walk this sphere;
The change onward from ours, to that of beings who walk other spheres.

"World Below the Brine" has been reproduced here under the Public Domain licence.

Header Image: Kelp forest. Credit: NOAA's National Ocean Service (CC BY 2.0)