Gathering the Deep: about the title


In the main post for this painting, I mentioned the dramatic stacking effect of the waves. It brought to mind some half-remembered words concerning a fearsome ninth wave:

Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,
Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged
Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame

These are lines written by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his epic poem “The Coming of Arthur”, from Idylls of The King. The events described at this point are supposed to have happened at Tintagel, more than 50 miles east of where I was in St Ives Bay, but still on the north coast of Cornwall. It”s not a poem that I have read (yet), despite my interest in the Arthurian legends.

However, this very passage was quoted by Kate Bush on the cover of her 1985 album, The Hounds of Love, the second side of which was a conceptual suite entitled “The Ninth Wave”. So that’ll be why it sounds familiar, although I have a nagging feeling that there was another source, too. (I’d like to say that I painted this to the strains of Kate’s Hounds of Love, or perhaps to her most recent album – Before the Dawn, which features a live, expanded version of “The Ninth Wave” – but actually I had Florence and the Machine‘s High as Hope in the CD player.)

Anyway, I borrowed a few of Tennyson’s words for my title. It’s an awful lot better than “Sea Stack”.