A choral symphony by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Copyright 2010 Lynn B. Savage
On the beach at night alone, As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song, As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all, All distances of space however wide, All distances of time, All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, All nations, all identities that have existed or may exist, All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future, This vast interlude spans them, and always has spanned, And shall forever span them and shall compactly hold and enclose them.
From “A Sea Symphony” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Lyrics from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”
When I first encountered Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony, I had just finished reading “Journey of Souls” and “Destiny of Souls” by Michael Newton for the first time. Wide-eyed with amazement at how vastly different life suddenly seemed from a spiritual perspective, hearing Walt Whitman’s metaphor of the soul’s journey upon the seas of life simply blew me away.
Still fresh in my mind was Newton’s account of bittersweet parting as a soul prepares for a new incarnation. Then to hear the poet’s words sung…
Sail forth, steer for the deep waters only, Reckless O Soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me, For we are bound, where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.
O my brave Soul! O farther, farther sail! O darling joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God? O farther, farther, farther sail!
Such poignant emotion! This imagery puts life in true perspective, for this is the core of what it’s all about. Leaving behind the safety and security of home to venture forth on an uncertain and risky journey, knowing there will be pain and hardship. Some take on too much and fail in spectacular fashion, but who can judge? All began their journey with high hopes and lofty expectations. Thusly we weave the rich tapestry of life, riding the waves from crest to trough. The true significance of this undertaking may not be fully understood until the finish. “Bravery” stands out as a key word in Whitman’s ode to the soul:
Flaunt out, O sea, your separate flags of nations! Flaunt out visible as ever the various flags and ship-signals! But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man one flag above all the rest, A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death, Token of all brave captains and of all intrepid sailors and mates, And of all that went down doing their duty, Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains young or old, A pennant universal, subtly waving all the time, o'er all brave sailors, All Seas, All Ships.bl seas, ships.