I love Albatrosses – they are such a great image for poets. Here is an excellent albatross poem, and then two more!
Albatrosses are some of the biggest birds there are today. They have a massive wingspan, sometimes nearing four meters. Albatrosses are great fliers and capable of flying incredible distances without expending much power. They eat mostly squid, fish, or krill which they catch by sort of strafing the water with their beaks – or diving.
Due to poetry the word albatross now is often associated with having a cross to bear or a millstone ’round ones neck. I’ll come back to this after I present the first two poems here.
Albatross Poem One
The Sleeping Albatross
As lone the bold Albatross sits on the billow
That rocks him in slumber, beneath his furled wing,
His head on his side has a warm, downy pillow;
And calmly he rides, like a brave ocean king.
Come down from his tour through the air he was cleaving,
And borne on the wave like a crest of its foam,
He fears not its power, while he s lulled by its heaving,
And rests as the traveller rests him at home.
Secure from the foes that look up from beneath him,
His breast is bound close in a soft, plumy mail;
He dreads not the blast, nor the surge that may wreathe him,
But mounts on the swell, and glides under the gale.
His field was the air, while awake and in motion;
His guide, One who guides the light sparrow to fall;
The sky his pavilion ; his bed, the whole ocean;
When sleeping, his watchman, the Maker of all.
And while the bright stars, that now o’er him are beaming,
To his hidden vision no lustre can pour,
Perhaps of that one is the Albatross dreaming,
That points to his far-away nest on the shore.
Behold, my faint spirit, the wild bird, reposing
Alone on the flood, is a teacher for thee!
Though brought to deep waters, an eye never-closing
Is o’er thee, – thy Watcher commands wind and sea.
When all is uncertain and dreary before thee,
And night’s sable curtains around thee are drawn;
Be peaceful, with Bethlehem’s Star beaming o’er thee,
And trust, till thy home-showing morning shall dawn.
Then, up for the flight, with a wide pinion springing,
To scent the sweet land-breeze that comes from the flowers;
And, quick from thy breast the cold water-drops flinging,
Regain at the sunrise thine own native bowers!
From Poems by Hanna F. Gould
Albatross Poem Two
Sometimes, to entertain themselves, the men of the crew
Lure upon deck an unlucky albatross, one of those vast
Birds of the sea that follow unwearied the voyage through,
Flying in slow and elegant circles above the mast.
No sooner have they disentangled him from their nets
Than this aerial colossus, shorn of his pride,
Goes hobbling pitiably across the planks and lets
His great wings hang like heavy, useless oars at his side.
How droll is the poor floundering creature, how limp and weak –
He, but a moment past so lordly, flying in state!
They tease him: One of them tries to stick a pipe in his beak;
Another mimics with laughter his odd lurching gait.
The Poet is like that wild inheritor of the cloud,
A rider of storms, above the range of arrows and slings;
Exiled on earth, at bay amid the jeering crowd,
He cannot walk for his unmanageable wings.
From Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
translated by George Dillon.
Albatross Poem Three
My last big bird poem here is only a selection of lines, though they be beautiful lyrics. This is from the magnificent Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It is in this poem that the albatross become synonymous with disgrace or bearing a horrible load – a poem of burden and woe!
Here are the relevant lines only:
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.
It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!
And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariners’ hollo!
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.’
‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!–
Why look’st thou so?’–’With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross.’
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge
You can listen to the whole poem by watching the following video.
I hope you enjoyed these poems about albatrosses!