1823
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnet to the Sea Serpent.

Connecticut Mirror (21 July 1823).

John G. C. Brainard


A Spenserian sonnet with a sting in its tale. Nahant is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts — a center of the whaling industry. This is one of two Spenserian sonnets by John G. C. Brainard. This popular poem was originally printed without signature in the Connecticut Mirror, where, like Brainard's other verse, it originally appeared.

Jared Sparks: "The Sonnet to the Sea Serpent is as good, perhaps, as any sonnet on such a subject can be, and were it not for the dragging prose of the last line, it would not be extravagant to call it an excellent specimen of this kind of composition.... By what authority 'scales and fins' are assigned to the sea serpent we know not; the monster has generally been supposed to be of the snake kind; but the author has doubtless a right to assume these properties, even without screening himself under the shield of poetical license, till their nonexistence shall be demonstrated" North American Review 21 (July 1825) 221-22.



Welter upon the waters mighty one—
And stretch thee in the ocean's trough of brine;
Turn thy wet scales up to the wind and sun,
And toss the billow from thy flashing fin;
Heave thy deep breathings to the ocean's din,
And bound upon its ridges in thy pride,
Or dive down to its lowest depths, and in
The caverns where its unknown monsters hide,
Measure thy length beneath the gulf stream's tide,
Or rest thee on the naval of that sea
Where floating on the Maelstrom, abide
The krakens sheltering under Norway's lee;
But go not to Nahant, lest men should swear,
You are a great deal bigger than you are.

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