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.’


See also the quote rich mosaic review of this magnificent, entrancing book: a love letter to islands and a paean to the sea. 


Source: Beccan, trans. Thomas Owen Clancy, quoted in Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 165

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