William Bartram's Stormy Seas


Have you ever noticed the calm that emerges in nature after a rough storm? Notice how Bartram uses sensory details and imagery to describe the calm after riding through a terrible storm at sea. Write a description of the calm you witness after a storm using as many visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile images as you can find.

Literary Connection

This passage is from the opening chapter of William Bartram’s The Travels of William Bartram, where he is sailing into Charleston, South Carolina, the starting point of his journey through the southeast in the 1760’s. Bartram was America’s first native-born naturalist/artist and the first author in the modern genre of writers who portrayed nature through personal experience as well as scientific observation. Bartram ended his journey in Sebastian, FL. in 1777.

“There are a few objects out at sea to attract the notice of the traveller, but what are sublime, awful, and majestic: the seas themselves, in a tempest, exhibit a tremendous scene, where winds assert their power, and in their furious conflict, seem to set the ocean on fire. On the other hand, nothing can be more sublime than the view of the encircling horizon, after the turbulent winds have taken their flight and the lately agitated bosom of the deep has again become calm and pacific; the gentle moon rising in dignity from the east, attended by millions of glittering orbs; the luminous appearance of the seas at night when all waters seem transmitted into liquid silver; the prodigious bands of porpoises foreboding tempest, that appear to cover the ocean;

the mighty whale, sovereign of the watery realms, who cleaves the seas in his course; the sudden appearance of land from the sea; the strand stretching each way, beyond the utmost reach of sight; the alternate appearance and recess of the coast, whilst the far distant blue hills slowly retreat and disappear; or, as we approach the coast, the capes and promontories first strike our sight, emerging from the watery expanse, and like mighty giants, elevating their crests towards the skies; the water suddenly alive with its scaly inhabitants, squadrons of sea-fowl sweeping through the air, impregnated with the breath of fragrant aromatic trees and flowers; the amplitude and magnificence of these scenes are great indeed, and may present to the imagination, an idea of the first appearance of the earth to man at  creation.”

– William Bartram

Personification is a form of metaphor in which human characteristics are attributed to non-human things. Here, Bartram personifies “the wind asserting its power” and “the moon rising in dignity.”

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