The Sea by Robert Lynd
In The Sea by Robert Lynd we have the theme of fear, superstition, freedom, prosperity, servitude and acceptance. Taken from his The Book of This and That collection the reader realises from the beginning of the essay that Lynd may be exploring the theme of fear. Particularly the fear one can encounter when it comes to sailing. Though it is unreasonable to suggest that every ship that sails will sink. Many passengers have a fear that the ship they are sailing on will sink. History doesn’t serve them well either with Lynd mentioned the Empress of Ireland and the Titanic. The Titanic of course was the first ship that society (and its builders) considered unsinkable. Yet it sank on its maiden voyage. Something that would not have dispelled the fears of future travellers on other ships. As to whether an individual’s fear of drowning at sea is rational. Lynd quotes many sources from the past in whereby people still believe that drowning is inevitable and also an unpleasant death. Though how the living are to know this is never mentioned and it is on the words of scholars that the information is provided.
Lynd himself does not appear to have any fear of sailing and quite enjoys it. It is something that gives him a degree of freedom. Cast away for the world for a short period of time. Without having to deal with the problems that may come from working in the city. However it is noticeable that for the business of the world to prosper ships (and eventually airplanes) would become irreplaceable. So in one sense there is a feeling of servitude to the newer forms of transport. For an individual to trade with India as an example. They needed to ship goods by ship. That is if the individual wishes to prosper in life. If is for that reason that prosperity may override some people’s fear when it comes to the sea. They have a need to be rich and will take the necessary risks to be so. It may also be a case that Lynd is arguing that the folklore or superstition that comes with the sea cannot all be true. Yes the sea has to be respected but it does not necessarily need sacrifices to be satisfied. Many scholars in the past have written of the sea only being satisfied and a safe passage ensured should a ship give up some of its occupants.
What is also interesting about the essay is that Lynd talks logically of the past and the present. He does not allow himself to be emotionally involved and for him sailing and the sea is something that he enjoys. Without having to believe the horror stories of those who have gone before him. In many ways the sea has been romanticized, at least tragically, as a place to die. A sailor is brave should he die at sea when the issue at hand may be very different. At the time the essay was written the sea may have been the main form of transport for people and cargo around the world. It is for this reason it is given a mysterious element. As is the usual course with all new things. However again Lynd is very level headed and not swayed by opinion. He knows that the sea is a place of commerce and as such mankind will become a servant to it. Just as it has become a servant to other forms of transport that may have existed at the time. Eventually there will be no pleasure to be taken by travelling by sea. Unless of course you are like Lynd and enjoy the journey and not necessarily the destination.
The end of the essay is also striking as again Lynd suggests that everyone will become a servant to the sea. Be it through the folklore of predecessors or the business men who rely on the sea to transport their goods. The wonder of the world of the sea will be missed by most people. Though man might think he can defeat the sea by building bigger and better ships. This is only a fool’s logic. The sea is an all-powerful entity with no master and mankind is reliant on the good nature of the sea in order for survival. Something that Lynd is only too familiar with and which others through arrogance and ignorance choose to deny. Particularly those who seek to profit from the new sea routes that have opened. In this way the sea will remain a mystery to most. Some will continue to have fear travelling across the sea. While others will not (Lynd). It may be more powerful than him but he still nonetheless does not live in fear of the sea. It is as though he accepts that he is risking his life when he travels by sea and this is something he accepts.