Sea Grapes

By Derek Walcott b. 1930 Derek Walcott
That sail which leans on light,
tired of islands,
a schooner beating up the Caribbean

for home, could be Odysseus,
home-bound on the Aegean;
that father and husband's

longing, under gnarled sour grapes, is
like the adulterer hearing Nausicaa's name
in every gull's outcry.

This brings nobody peace. The ancient war
between obsession and responsibility
will never finish and has been the same

for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore
now wriggling on his sandals to walk home,
since Troy sighed its last flame,

and the blind giant's boulder heaved the trough
from whose groundswell the great hexameters come
to the conclusions of exhausted surf.

The classics can console. But not enough.


Derek Walcott, "Sea Grapes" from Poems 1965-1980. Copyright © 1992 by Derek Walcott. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Collected Poems 1948-1984 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Derek Walcott b. 1930

POET’S REGION Caribbean

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Mythology & Folklore, Greek & Roman Mythology

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Derek  Walcott

Biography

Born on the island of Saint Lucia, a former British colony in the West Indies, poet and playwright Derek Walcott was trained as a painter but turned to writing as a young man. He published his first poem in the local newspaper at the age of 14. Five years later, he borrowed $200 to print his first collection, 25 Poems, which he distributed on street corners. Walcott’s major breakthrough came with the collection In a Green Night: . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Mythology & Folklore, Greek & Roman Mythology

POET’S REGION Caribbean

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.