The water I see is choppy, I have always loved that term, and it is perfect for the angry looking waves that are thrashing against the hulls of those ships. I think I am also on a big ship, high above the water on a deck, but so vulnerable to the ocean’s whims.
I can feel the waves as the vessel struggles to maintain its balance and the wind rips my hair out of the partially neat hairstyle I started out with in the morning. Now it is afternoon, but I feel like it has been ages, the endless ocean in front of me is only interrupted when we face trouble, as we are about to. The two ships on our course appear to be hostile, to each other and anyone else in the vicinity. This doesn’t bode well for me or my ship. In the distance I see more of the hulking sea ships, it is impossible to discern their flags through the damn smoke that is billowing, darkening the foggy sky. I am worried-friends or foes?
I am afraid, as I stand here, awaiting my fate near what is definitely going to be a huge, important battle, at least as far as I can tell. The weather conditions are making me more anxious, the skies look calm but the ocean is very rough. I overheard the captain as he shouted orders to the crew, he didn’t seem anxious, but he has to be calm. The first mate was clearly afraid; I heard he only got the post because his father owns the ship.
I think this is the calm before the storm—the skies are definitely going to wreak havoc tonight. The ship is plummeting more and more on the waves. The deck is becoming dangerously wet, I have a death-grip on the railing, but my arms are beginning to ache. My sea sickness forced me out here, but my fear makes me want to run inside and hang onto my bunk. The rocking of the ship is making my stomach turn, I haven’t been able to keep much down, I hope I survive this trip so I can tuck into one of my mother’s delicious roasts. It should only take another week before we dock at my home town, provided we live through the night.
I had never seen this painting before, but I do love Manet. The Battle of the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the C.S.S. Alabama might not seem poetic, but the painting comes alive the way a really good poem can bring you to a profound moment when you least expect it. The instant I saw it, I felt like I was there, on that ocean, which is what I tried to show.