This poem by the seventh century Irish poet-monk Beccán mac Luigdech captures the ruggedness and exhilaration of crossing rampant seas in small boats to create new settlements or monasteries. I love the ‘long-haired sea’ and its portrayal as ‘wild country’ followed by a surge of vivid adjectives and ending with the juxtaposition of ‘pleasing’ and ‘dismal’.
‘Connacht’s candle, Britain’s candle, splendid ruler;
In scores of curraghs with an army of wretches he crossed the long-haired sea.
He crossed the wave-strewn wild country, foam flecked, seal-filled, savage, bounding, seething, white-tipped, pleasing, dismal.’
Source: Beccan, trans. Thomas Owen Clancy, quoted in Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 165