By Thomas James Merton 1915–1968

(From Crossportion’s Pastoral)

The bottom of the sea has come   
And builded in my noiseless room   
The fishes’ and the mermaids’ home,

Whose it is most, most hell to be   
Out of the heavy-hanging sea
And in the thin, thin changeable air

Or unroom sleep some other where;   
But play their coral violins   
Where waters most lock music in:

The bottom of my room, the sea.
Full of voiceless curtaindeep
There mermaid somnambules come sleep   
Where fluted half-lights show the way,

And there, there lost orchestras play   
And down the many quarterlights come   
To the dim mirth of my aquadrome:   
The bottom of my sea, the room.

Thomas Merton, “Song” (“The bottom of the sea has come ...”) from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. Copyright 1946 by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1977)

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Poet Thomas James Merton 1915–1968

Subjects Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams


A monk who lived in isolation for several years, and one of the most well-known Catholic writers of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton was a prolific poet, religious writer, and essayist whose diversity of work has rendered a precise definition of his life and an estimation of the significance of his career difficult. Merton was a Trappist, a member of a Roman Catholic brotherhood known for its austere lifestyle and vow of . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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