The “Alice Jean” by Robert Graves

17 Oct

One moonlight night a ship drove in,
A ghost ship from the west,
Drifting with bare mast and lone tiller;
Like a mermaid drest
In long green weed and barnacles
She beached and came to rest.

All the watchers of the coast
Flocked to view the sight;
Men and women streaming down
Through the summer night,
Found her standing tall and ragged
Beached in the moonlight.

Then one old woman stared aghast:
“The Alice Jean? But no!
The ship that took my Ned from me
Sixty years ago –
Drifted back from the utmost west
With the ocean’s flow?

“Caught and caged in the weedy pool
Beyond the western brink,
Where crewless vessels lie and rot
in waters black as ink,
Torn out at last by a sudden gale –
Is it the Jean, you think?”

A hundred women gaped at her,
The menfolk nudged and laughed,
But none could find a likelier story
For the strange craft
With fear and death and desolation
Rigged fore and aft.

The blind ship came forgotten home
To all but one of these,
Of whom none dared to climb aboard her:
And by and by the breeze
Veered hard about, and the Alice Jean
Foundered in foaming seas.


Thought I would try a little something different. This is a poem written by Robert Graves (hence the title). I bought today a book titled New Poetry Workshop (Edited by N. Russell and H.J. Chatfield, 1983). It is designed to be a thought provoking book for Year 9 and 10 students, but here I am intrigued by it’s questions and poetry.

The questions posed by the book are: why do you think the ship is called “blind”? Which line in verse five offers you a ‘gap in the plot’ which your imagination must fill? Personally I would like to hear your answers.

I pose another question to you too, that I postulated  after reading and thinking about the poem. Is the poem about a ship or a person?

Also if anyone could find a “study guide” or other material that analyses the poem it would be greatly appreciated.


Posted by on Wednesday 17th October, 2012 in Poetry


Tags: , , ,

6 responses to “The “Alice Jean” by Robert Graves

  1. oawritingspoemspaintings

    Friday 19th October, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Absolutely beautiful poetry! Thanks for sharing it

    • withheldindarkness

      Sunday 21st October, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Thank you for your praise. Keep reading and writing!

  2. Lisa Marie

    Tuesday 23rd October, 2012 at 11:28 am

    As with most poetry the interpretation is as individual as the reader, that is what I think makes good poetry, at least. To me the “aghast” was representative of a difficult journey, much like that of a ship, of a woman – maybe due to the mention of a mermaid – who bore such absurdity that “common folk” would deem her unworthy, with the exception of one who was able to see past the ugliness to the “grit” and rode her into the sunset, you might say. 🙂

    I found it sad but sensual… my two cents.

    • withheldindarkness

      Friday 2nd November, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts Lisa. I really love the interpretation aspect of poetry. The “meaning” of the poem can be so different to what the readers can take from it. I think great poetry (and songs) have this element in them, not to say all poems should be open either. Thanks.

  3. sanora1

    Wednesday 14th November, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Great poem. I really enjoyed it. thanks.

    • withheldindarkness

      Wednesday 14th November, 2012 at 9:44 am

      I was a little surprised with this poem, and how much it resonated with me. Considering that I have struggled to find any other poems in the same anthology that I connect with so strongly has been a surprise too. I think just that there is possibly more to this poem than what is on the surface is what attracts me. Thanks for commenting.


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