Depths of the Sea

This striking Pre-Raphaelite painting and the accompanying verse were first introduced to the public at the Royal Academy (London, England) in 1886…


Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, The Depths of the Sea, 1887, watercolor and gouache on wove paper mounted on panel, 197 x 76 cm (Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum)

“Yea, draw him gently through the strange seaways 
Down through the dim, green, water whispering. 
Thy cold lips have not kissed so fair a thing 
As this young mariner for many days. 
So well he sleeps, he will not wake to praise 
Thy wan bright loveliness, nor feel thee cling 
Around him, neither smile to hear thee sing, 
Though thou dids’t lure him hither with thy lays. 
The bubbles sigh and sparkle overhead, 
How white thou art! But he is paler still, 
Pale with despair of young days forfeited. 
Smiling thou bear’st him to thy chill green bed. 
Of brightest, bitterest triumph take thy fill, 
Thou hast his body, but the soul has fled.”


—R. Armytage (Rosamund Marriott Watson), “The Depths of the Sea: after Burne Jones,” Academy (22 May 1886)

Check out Khan Academy’s website to read more about the mythology and meaning behind this masterwork!