Caroline Gill’s New Poem: ‘Thalatta, Thalatta’ (‘The sea! the sea!’)

Today we have another accomplished poet on the site: Caroline Gill. Caroline is the representative in Wales for the Petra Kenney Poetry Competition.

Along with Sarah James, Caroline Gill has been very helpful with the evolution of the Folding Mirror form, and I am delighted to present below Caroline’s debut Folding Mirror poem.

First, Caroline introduces her poem and its inspiration, and without further ado, I’ll hand over to her.

Caroline Gill

The Introduction

‘Thalatta, Thalatta’ (‘The sea! the sea!’) is my first attempt at a Folding Mirror poem.

On a clear day I look across the Severn Estuary to Exmoor and the Hartland Light. I am always conscious of the ebb and flow of the tide, so the sea was a natural subject for me to choose for a poem that has two halves.

My title is a transliteration of the Greek exclamation recorded by the Athenian historian and general, Xenophon. The Greek mercenaries supposedly shouted, ‘The sea! the sea!’ – ‘thalatta, thalatta’ (θάλαττα, θάλαττα) – when they fled from King Artaxerxes II, and caught sight of the Black Sea in 401 B.C.

‘Thalatta’, with its double ‘T’ sound, represents the Attic pronunciation as it was recorded by Xenophon. The word can also be rendered with a double ‘s’ – thalassa.

We sometimes visit Tenby, along the coast from my South Wales home, where Paxton’s sea water bath building of 1811 is graced with a Greek inscription from Euripides. The inscription translates as ‘The sea washes away all the ills of men.’

I wanted my middle line of the poem to be pivotal in the sense that it is the hinge of the Folding Mirror poem. It is, of course, a kind of horizontal mirrored line in its own right.

The turning tide in my poem finds its parallel in the continuing round of day and night. Great gulls (which swoop down) are ‘paired’ with small terns (which soar skywards) for contrast.

For interest, see the cover of the Penguin Classic, The Sea, The Sea by Xenophon.
The Poem

‘Thalatta, Thalatta’
(The sea! The sea!)

Waves roll in at my window.
The sun sets:
Silence.
The sea is my mirror:
My face is the ocean.
Twilight descends:
Great gulls are swooping.
The storm is brewing:

Turn, Tide, Turn

The storm is abating:
Small terns are soaring.
Daylight approaches:
The ocean is my face.
My mirror is the sea:
Silence.
The dawn breaks:
Waves roll out from my window.

© Caroline Gill 2009

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8 thoughts on “Caroline Gill’s New Poem: ‘Thalatta, Thalatta’ (‘The sea! the sea!’)”

  1. Love this poem, Caroline. It’s absolutely perfect for the fm form and the fm form is absolutely perfect for it. I really enjoyed your introduction too.

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