Rupert Brooke

A Channel Passage

The damned ship lurched and slithered. Quiet and quick
My cold gorge rose; the long sea rolled; I knew
I must think hard of something, or be sick;
And could think hard of only one thing--you!
You, you alone could hold my fancy ever!
And with you memories come, sharp pain, and dole.
Now there's a choice--heartache or tortured liver!
A sea-sick body, or a you-sick soul!

Do I forget you? Retchings twist and tie me,
Old meat, good meals, brown gobbets, up I throw.
Do I remember? Acrid return and slimy,
The sobs and slobber of a last year's woe.
And still the sick ship rolls. 'Tis hard, I tell ye,
To choose 'twixt love and nausea, heart and belly.

"A Channel Passage" was printed in The Collected Poems (1915), a volume which all told sold over 300,000 copies. The poem, written before the war, announces a break with the Victorian and Georgian traditions, particularly in its "poetic diction."

In a sonnet--and a love sonnet at that--we do not expect to see sea-sickness and love-sickness--fond memories and vomit--linked through imagery and theme. As Jon Stallworthy comments on this poem which deals so vividly with "love and nausea," a modern voice was making itself heard.