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While writing Shorelines, Robert Jellicoe was inspired to write a number of poems imagining the voices of the fishermen and those they left behind. Some of these poems are printed in Shorelines.  

Six of these poems have been set to music by Nathan Williamson 

A selection of poems is published below:

Oh where are you my own dear boy?

Oh where are you tonight?

I’m in my grave my own dear wife,

I’m in my grave locked tight.

Where is your grave, my sweet, sweet boy?

Where is your grave, my love?

Beneath the wave-topped sea, my dear

While you are there above.

What do you see my own true one?

What do you see down there?

Ask not, ask not my sweetest girl,

To hear would bring despair.

What do you hear my darling boy?

What do you hear below?

My ears are stopped, they cannot hear,

A void I only know. 

I see you clear in my mind’s eye,

I hear you clear aright.

I see you too, I hear you clear,

To hold you, that I might.

Farewell my love till that day dawns

When we each other see.

Oh soon, my love, that day will come 

Together we will be.

I could not tell her what I see

Still less those things I hear,

‘Twould fright her to the very quick

And cloud her eyes with tears.


Nuthin' here but sand and mud

Nuthin' here but ebb and flood

Nuthin' here but fish and eels

Nuthin' here but wrecks and keels

Nuthin' here but banks and shoals

Nuthin' here but flints and coals 

Nuthin' here but weed and shells

Nuthin' here but bricks and bells 

No-one here but drowned folk be

No-one here but them and me.


I see them bobbing like dans

Hung straight by their sea-boots.

Their faces are skulls 


I see them waving to shore

Arms articulated by the tide

They point all the compass


I hear them wailing in the waves

Babbling through water

They sound all the depths


I touch them as I swim past

They are bone-men

Fish-eaten, sea-rolled



But grey and green are all my light

And once, I think a flash of blue

Remember me of my soul’s flight.

Many’s the time I’ve wished I might

Return again to be with you

But grey and green are all my light.

The tops-a glitter all the night

When moon shines through and through

Remember me of my soul’s flight,

As does the sun all round and bright.

It flames my heart for loss of you

But grey and green are all my light.

And when the wind and seas do fight

Their howls and shrieks and ballyhoo

Remember me of my soul’s flight.

I wish for laughter and delight

I wish so much to be with you

But grey and green are all my light,

Remember me of my soul’s flight.


I hear the sea- birds’ mewing cries,

I see the fish flash by,

I rise and fall on every tide

The low one and the high.

The shingle strikes this way and that 

My eyes are scoured by sand,

The weed clogs up my mouth and nose

My hair a knotted strand. 

The foaming waves break on the top

The swell goes up and down,

The seals loom up and then are gone

This greyness is my own

My loneliness is all I have

My loneliness and me,

Oh if I could breathe the air again

And end this misery.




My keen ears tune to air

The seething silence recedes

I hear those sounds again 

I had forgot. 

The wheeling cobs’ mews

The sprat-loons’ kowkings

The willocks’ muurrrs

The kitties’ kitty-weekings

The rixies’ kreaars

The sea-pies kleep keepings

The pickmires’ kuk-kuk-keears

And out on the winter marsh 

A lone curlew’s 



I am curlew.

Sea-cob: common gull

Williock: guillemot

Sprat-loon: red-throated diver

Rixy: common tern

Kittie: kittiwake

Sea-pie: oystercatcher

Pickmire: black-headed gull


I shuffle alone up Church Street

And stand outside the door

I watch you coming and going

Where I can cross no more.

I see you spreading washing out

On green gorse at Whin Hill

Those sheets so white we slept in once

Would we were in them still.

I follow you to the churchyard

Where you attend my stone

Raindrops lengthening down my name

You standing there alone.

I take your hand and squeeze it tight

We walk along the shore 

Your warm touch makes me long for you, 

A shiver sets your jaw.

I see you with another man

A longshoreman like me

You are holding hands together

I died of jealousy.


“ My heart, or some of it at least,

Is his and his always.

I’ll marry you if you can live

In shadow all your days.”

“I’ll marry you though I cannot

Be all-in-all the one.

I’ll be your next-best husband true 

Until my days are done.”

They married and they lived their days

To all as if together 

But part of her was never his

Never and for ever.


You are on the beach, keening

You head scarfed

Your face white

Gulls screaming.


You clutch them tightly to your side

The two boys and the girl

Their faces bury in your skirts

All of you red-eyed.


I am the foam flung by the tide

I salt your booted feet

My tears are there preserved, you'll see,

Tide-marked white and dried.

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