It is no surprise that one of the earliest works in English literature should be a poem about the sea: the sea has been a source of fascination from the earliest times, and the Anglo-Saxon poem 'The Seafarer' is only the first in a long series of writings which ponder its mystery. A powerful and restless presence in real life, the sea is one of the most ubiquitous and protean symbols in literature, changing in response to shifts in sensibility, and holding a mirror to all who confront it - Renaissance explorers and Augustan gentlemen, Romantic outcasts and Victorian travellers, small-boat sailors, naturalists and novelists, poets and oceanographers: men and women in a state of wonder before the sea. Jonathan Raban brings a special awareness and knowledge to his role as editor; in the words of Colin Thubron, 'nobody of his generation writes more subtly or imaginatively on travel'. Raban's introduction constitutes an important essay on the meaning of the sea in literature, and the pieces he has chosen display the exhilarating richness of writing in the tradition.
Alongside extracts from the acknowledged marine masterpieces are many unexpected delights: Emily Dickinson's affirmative poem 'Exhalation is the Going'; a meditation on a seaside holiday by Larkin; Jane Austen's tart satirizing of Byron's Romanticized sea; Thoreau's contemplation of monsters and lost anchors off Cape Cod; Willard Bascom's brilliantly observed description of breaking waves. As richly varied and enthralling as the sea itself, this sparkling collection spans the centuries from AD 900 to the present and forms a unique and important body of writing to delight in and admire.
Review from previous edition `this splendid anthology...so rich a mix...There is something here for everyone and that is as it should be.' Barry Unsworth, Sunday Telegraph The Oxford Book of the Sea, edited by Jonathan Raban is one of the most romantic books I have read in a long time. * Sunday Herald,Glasgow, 02/12/01 *