There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.
Here the poet says that there is a pleasure in walking in the woods. Rapture- how the waves strike on the shore. In this lonely shore (of life), it is limited to our life. Dreaming about a utopian world where people find pathless woods pleasurable. It is a society where nobody obstructs your life from the communicating nature. I become a completely different person. It is inexpressible, these are elevated thoughts, yet this joy is so great that I want to express it. In this canto, Byron uses the natural world to make conventional forms of human greatness seem important. In doing so, he highlights the superiority of human imagination which can contain the entire human world through creativity & representation.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean -- roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin -his control
Stops with the shore; - upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man's ravage, save his own,
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknell'd, uncoffin'd, and unknown.
Man is just a small minuscule of this entire universe just like a drop of rain. Addressing a personified Ocean, fleets of a ship floating on the surface of the ocean, vain because it highlights the vanity of people these ships cannot stand in front of the wrath of the ocean. Man is ruining the land, he thinks he's the mightiest but his control ends, when the ocean begins. He is beyond its control. Upon the watery plains, once the storm strikes these men, nothing remains. Man is just like a drop of rain, he sinks. How painful it is for a man to sink. The ocean just takes in the man. He dies without a grove, respectable funeral; nobody gets to know about it. How man's importance is self-generated.
His steps are not upon thy paths, -thy fields
Are not a spoil for him, - thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth's destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send'st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his Gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth: - there let him lay.
If you are caught in the storm, the man does not know where to go, man cannot even think of conquering your fields. When a man is caught in the storm, you stir him up. You’ve had hate man's destructive traits. You thrust him; lift him up through your force. What is playful for you, it is a dreadful experience for a man, on the surface of the ocean when he's pushed towards the shore. He might or might not be saved. On the earth/land, he has the possibility of being saved. You show your strength. When you lay the man low, it shows the mirror to the man who might think that he's powerful but actually, he does not have any power.
The armaments which thunder - strike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,
And monarchs tremble in their capitals,
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armada's pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.
In this stanza, the reference to arms is in order to demolish the wall we use these tools, we show our command and make the earth tremble. Monarchs are trembling thinking they might lose, flow we are made of clay. When a man is capable of making great ships, he thinks he can be Conqueror of oceans. He takes the authority like a God. These ships are like toys, & ocean can playfully toss it, which is very dangerous for men. When 2-3 waves strike together foam is created. Be it a great fleet of ships or smaller ones, the ocean doesn't differentiate.
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee-
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters washed them power while they were free,
And many a tyrant since; their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts: - not so thou,
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves' play -
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow
Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now.
On these shores, the great empires of the world rest, they existed and they are no longer there. Ocean still exists. What are these civilizations; they are nothing in front of you. Your waters have always been the witness to history. These are the shores of great civilizations. The decay of these great men their civilizations and deserted, but you have not to change except your wild waves which play along the shore. You always existed but time has not put wrinkles on your brow.
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsed - in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime,
Dark - heaving; - boundless, endless, and sublime -
The image of eternity - the throne
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
In this stanza, the poet says that your surface reflects the image of Almighty glorious because of its magnitude, we can see the fury/wrath of God in the mirrors created by the ocean in tempests, and we are reminded of God. Whether the ocean is calm or tumultuous, be it on the poles, the ocean is still dark, deep, sublime associated with the ocean - we do not know what lies beneath its surface - make it sublime. This water was God's throne. Initially, there was only water from the deep, shiny corners of the ocean, all things were made. “Thee” - ocean/God, whose throne is the ocean, keeps an existing as fathomless alone. It will always hold a supernatural element in man's mind.
And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubble, onward: from a boy
I wanton'd with thy breakers - they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshing sea
Made them a terror - 'twas a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane - as I do here.
The poet has a personal relationship with nature. He is talking about the ocean is eternal and time has no effect on it. The ocean is timeless. He acknowledges that the ocean is powerful and Spanish troops were destroyed by ocean or nature. The poet always felt that he was the child of nature. It is pathless but still progressive. Even if the ocean or sea is a terror for me yet it is a pleasure because of the sublime. He enjoys the whole act of swimming. “Mane” – animal imagery used for the ocean. We can interpret that the poet is trying to domesticate or conquer the ocean through his humanity, not with pride.
My task is done - my song hath ceased -my theme
Has died into an echo; it is fit
The spell should break of this protracted dream,
The torch shall be extinguish'd which hath lit
My midnight lamp - and what is writ, is writ, -
Would it were worthier! but I am not now
That which I have been - and my visions flit
Less palpably before me - and the glow
Which in my spirit dwelt is fluttering, faint, and low.
The poet is saying that this poem is an extended poetry and it is the right time to end. I might be changed now and not be the same person as before. My visions are fluttering and now the poet is done by writing a poem. He has romanticized the idea of the ocean.
Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been -
A sound which makes us linger; - yet -farewell!
Ye! who have traced the Pilgrim to the scene
Which is his last, if in your memories dwell
A thought which once was his, if on ye swell
A single recollection, not in vain
He wore his sandal-shoon, and scallop-shell;
Farewell! with him alone may rest the pain,
If such there were - with you, the mortal of his strain!
Everything that begins has an end and this has been the procedure. It’s time for the farewell now. If you are able to remember this poetry or able to recollect it at any point of life written by pilgrimage, then it would not be a waste.