Should pale death, with treble dread, make the ocean caves our bed...

aids4sale

New Member
Vietnamese
In the movie The Lighthouse (2019), Willem Dafoe's character said this when making a toast: "Should pale death, with treble dread, make the ocean caves our bed, God who hears the surges roll deign to save our suppliant soul."

I have a vague idea what it means but I'm not 100% sure. Can somebody enlighten me on this?

Thank you!
 
  • Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    It would be helpful if you would explain which parts are confusing you. You're asking about a total of four lines of verse, and we don't want to spend time explaining things you already understand.
     

    aids4sale

    New Member
    Vietnamese
    It would be helpful if you would explain which parts are confusing you. You're asking about a total of four lines of verse, and we don't want to spend time explaining things you already understand.
    I actually don't understand the whole thing. I think "...God who hears the surges roll deign to save our suppliant soul." means he hopes that God will help him when desperate times come.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Imagine commas before 'who' and after 'surges roll'. The speaker is asking for God to save his soul if he dies by drowning.
    If a horrible death sends our bodies to the ocean floor -- that is, if we drown -- then (addressing God) God, who is aware of the storm, save our souls, we beg you.
    I haven't seen the movie, so I may be misinterpreting this.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's a poem so it must have the requisite number of syllables in each line with rhymes. I would say that "who hears the surges roll" is sort of a "filler" (as really most of it is). God, being ubiquitous and omniscient, hears all the ocean waves and thus everything that happens at sea such as drownings.
    The thought is just: If I drown, I hope God takes my soul. Now I need to convert that into 28 syllables with 2 rhymes. ;)
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    This is a slightly changed version of the last verse of a poem by Lydia Sigourney, published in 1845, as part of a book of sea-related poetry called The Sea and the Sailor (although a later edition was published as Poems for the Sea.) The full poem may be read here:
    Poems for the Sea/Hymn at Parting - Wikisource, the free online library

    Each stanza of the poem asks God to help sailors in different situations. The final situation is death: the ship has been lost at sea, and everyone on it has drowned. Instead of being buried, the sailor's bodies lie on the ocean floor. The poet asks that even in that situation God will deign (look the word up if you don't know it...) to save the souls of those who pray to God for mercy ("suppliant soul.")
     
    Last edited:

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    This is a slightly changed version of the last verse of a poem by Lydia Sigourney, published in 1845, as part of a book of sea-related poetry called The Sea and the Sailor. The full poem may be read here:
    Poems for the Sea/Hymn at Parting - Wikisource, the free online library

    Each stanza of the poem asks God to help sailors in different situations. The final situation is death: the ship has been lost at sea, and everyone on it has drowned. Instead of being buried, the sailor's bodies lie on the ocean floor. The poet asks that even in that situation God will deign (look the word up if you don't know it...) to save the souls of those who pray to God for mercy ("suppliant soul.")
    Now how did you know that? How did you happen to know of Sigourney?
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    This is a slightly changed version of the last verse of a poem by Lydia Sigourney, published in 1845, as part of a book of sea-related poetry called The Sea and the Sailor. The full poem may be read here:
    Poems for the Sea/Hymn at Parting - Wikisource, the free online library

    Each stanza of the poem asks God to help sailors in different situations. The final situation is death: the ship has been lost at sea, and everyone on it has drowned. Instead of being buried, the sailor's bodies lie on the ocean floor. The poet asks that even in that situation God will deign (look the word up if you don't know it...) to save the souls of those who pray to God for mercy ("suppliant soul.")
    Great research! I Googled but couldn't find this, though I suspected a 19th century source.

    This verse follows the pattern of the ubiquitous children's prayer

    Now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
    If I die before I wake,
    I pray the Lord my soul to take.

    It's a standard prayer format.

    I am curious about the dialogue, if you say vaguely Shakespearean plus 19th century plus ocean adventure, it has to be filtered by through Moby Dick as well.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "But doesn't everyone know about Sigourney?"
    :D
    To which I would have replied, "Yes, wasn't she the woman in "Alien"?"

    God,
    who hears the surges roll, - who hears the sea move
    deign to save - condescend (subjunctive) to save
    our suppliant soul." - our soul which prays for that salvation humbly and earnestly
     

    Donzu11

    New Member
    Vietnamese
    Hi everyone, I have the same question as aids4sale, but how about the first part: "Should pale death, with treble dread, make the ocean caves our bed"
    what do it mean by "Ocean caves our bed" or should i say what do the whole sentence mean by should pale death with treble dread, make the ocean caves our bed?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    To make (cause) the place where we sleep (our bed) to be ocean caves (underwater).
    To make ocean caves our bed = To make our bed be ocean caves.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    , but how about the first part: "Should pale death, with treble dread, make the ocean caves our bed"
    Note that the original line is "Should pale death with arrow dread/ Make the ocean caves our bed/ Though no eye of love might see/ Where that shrouded grave shall be,/ Thou! who hear'st the surges roll,/ Deign to save the suppliant soul."

    The concept of death is personified here as a pale warrior who kills us with an arrow. Death and sleep are often compared to each other, and the poet here is comparing death to an eternal sleep, and graves to a bed. In this case, the sailors have drowned at sea, and instead of being buried in graves on land where those who love them can see and visit their graves, the "bed" for their eternal sleep is the unseen floor of the ocean, and ocean caves.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    In old sailors songs and poems about the sea it's very common to refer to drowning as sleeping in a watery grave, sleeping on the bed of the ocean, sleep in a sailors grave, etc.
     
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