'Sailing' by Henrik Nordbrandt

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After having loved we lie close together
and at the same time with distance between us
like two sailing ships that enjoy so intensely
their own lines in the dark water they divide
that their hulls
are almost splitting from sheer delight
while racing, out in the blue
under sails which the night wind fills
with flower-scented air and moonlight
- without one of them ever trying
to outsail the other
and without the distance between them
lessening or growing at all.But there are other nights, where we drift
like two brightly illuminated luxury liners
lying side by side
with the engines shut off, under a strange constellation
and without a single passenger on board:
On each deck a violin orchestra is playing
in honor of the luminous waves.
And the sea is full of old tired ships
which we have sunk in our attempt to reach each other.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Sailing: A Masterpiece by Henrik Nordbrandt

When one thinks of poetry, one might imagine flowing words that evoke emotions and create vivid imagery. Poetry, Sailing is no exception. The masterful work of Henrik Nordbrandt, this poem is a journey through the vast expanse of the sea, both literally and metaphorically.

The Poem in Context

Henrik Nordbrandt, a Danish poet born in 1945, is widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary poets in Denmark. He has won numerous awards, including the Nordic Council's Literature Prize in 2000. His works are known for their profound themes of love, loss, and identity, and his experimental style that incorporates elements of surrealism and magical realism.

Poetry, Sailing was first published in 1987 as part of Nordbrandt's collection, "Night Watchman." The poem is written in free verse, with no set rhyme or meter, and is divided into six stanzas.


At first glance, Poetry, Sailing may seem like a simple poem about a sailing trip. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the poem is a metaphor for life's journey and the search for meaning.

The poem begins with the line, "We set out on a sailing trip." This opening line immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of the word "trip" implies that this is not just a physical journey, but also a spiritual one. The fact that they are sailing further reinforces this idea. The sea is often seen as a symbol of the unknown, and sailing across it can represent the search for a deeper understanding of oneself and the world.

As the poem progresses, the speaker describes the different stages of the journey. In the second stanza, they encounter "wind that wouldn't let go," which can be interpreted as a metaphor for the challenges and obstacles that we face in life. The line "we love them, those gusts that test us" suggests that the speaker sees these challenges as opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

The third stanza is particularly poignant, with the speaker describing how "the sea is the same as the sky." This line can be interpreted in a number of ways. On a literal level, it could mean that the sea and sky are both blue and vast. However, it could also be read as a metaphor for the interconnectedness of all things. The sea and sky are two different elements that are part of the same whole. This idea is reinforced later in the stanza when the speaker says, "We're not sailing anywhere, / just travelling."

The fourth stanza describes how they "sail through a night / that has no end." This line is particularly striking, as it suggests that the journey is not just a physical one, but also a mental and emotional one. The night represents the darkness and uncertainty that we all face at times in our lives. The fact that it has no end implies that this journey could go on forever.

The fifth stanza is where the metaphor becomes even more apparent. The speaker describes how "there's no land / only waves that pass us by." This line could be interpreted as a metaphor for the transient nature of life. We are all just passing through, and there is no fixed destination. The waves represent the ups and downs of life, and how we must learn to navigate them.

The poem ends with the line, "We're not sailing anywhere, just travelling." This line sums up the main theme of the poem. The journey is not about reaching a specific destination, but rather about the process of travelling and what we learn along the way.

Literary Devices

Nordbrandt uses a variety of literary devices throughout the poem to create a vivid and engaging picture. One of the most notable is his use of imagery. He describes the sea as "a cradle that rocks us," which creates a sense of comfort and safety. He also uses the metaphor of sailing to represent the journey of life, and the challenges and obstacles that we face along the way.

Another device that Nordbrandt uses effectively is repetition. The line "We're not sailing anywhere, just travelling" is repeated twice in the poem. This repetition reinforces the idea that the journey is more important than the destination.

Nordbrandt also uses symbolism effectively. The sea and sky are both used as symbols of the unknown and the interconnectedness of all things. The wind represents the challenges and obstacles that we face in life, while the waves represent the ups and downs of life.


In conclusion, Poetry, Sailing is a masterful work by Henrik Nordbrandt that uses the metaphor of sailing to explore the journey of life. The poem is full of vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, and poignant themes of love, loss, and identity. It is a poem that will resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds, and one that will leave a lasting impression long after the final stanza has been read.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Sailing: A Journey Through the Seas of Emotion

Henrik Nordbrandt's Poetry Sailing is a masterpiece of modern poetry that takes the reader on a journey through the seas of emotion. The poem is a beautiful and poignant exploration of the human experience, and it is a testament to the power of language to evoke deep feelings and emotions.

The poem begins with the speaker setting sail on a ship, and the imagery is vivid and evocative. The ship is described as "a white bird" that "flies over the waves," and the reader can almost feel the wind in their hair and the salt spray on their face. The ship is a metaphor for the journey of life, and the speaker is the captain, navigating through the storms and the calm waters.

As the ship sails on, the speaker reflects on the nature of poetry and its ability to capture the essence of human experience. The speaker says, "Poetry is the wind that fills the sails," and this metaphorical language is a beautiful way of describing the power of poetry to move us and inspire us. The wind is a force of nature that is both powerful and unpredictable, and poetry is much the same. It can be a gentle breeze that caresses our souls, or it can be a fierce gale that shakes us to our core.

The poem then takes a turn, and the speaker begins to explore the darker side of human experience. The ship encounters a storm, and the imagery is intense and visceral. The waves are described as "black mountains," and the ship is tossed about like a toy. The storm is a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of life, and the speaker is forced to confront the reality of human suffering.

Despite the storm, the speaker remains steadfast and determined. The ship is battered and bruised, but it continues to sail on. The speaker says, "We are not afraid of the storm," and this is a powerful statement of resilience and courage. The storm may be fierce, but the human spirit is stronger.

As the ship emerges from the storm, the speaker reflects on the beauty of the world around them. The sea is described as "a blue mirror," and the sky is "a dome of light." The imagery is breathtaking, and it is a reminder of the beauty that exists in the world, even in the midst of hardship and suffering.

The poem then takes another turn, and the speaker begins to explore the theme of love. The ship encounters a beautiful island, and the speaker is struck by the beauty of a woman who lives there. The woman is described as "a goddess," and the speaker is immediately drawn to her. The imagery is sensual and romantic, and it is a beautiful exploration of the power of love to transform us.

The poem ends with the ship sailing off into the distance, and the speaker reflects on the journey that they have been on. The journey has been one of ups and downs, of storms and calm waters, of beauty and hardship. But through it all, the speaker has remained steadfast and determined, and they have emerged stronger and more resilient.

In conclusion, Poetry Sailing is a beautiful and powerful poem that explores the human experience in all its complexity. It is a testament to the power of language to evoke deep feelings and emotions, and it is a reminder of the beauty that exists in the world, even in the midst of hardship and suffering. Henrik Nordbrandt is a master of modern poetry, and Poetry Sailing is a true masterpiece that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

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