Diving for Pearls is now closed. No further entries will be added to it, but the quotations gathered will stay here, and can be browsed by author or category.
Precious the bounteous widow’s mite;
And precious, for extreme delight,
The largesse from the churl:
Precious the ruby’s blushing blaze,
And alba’s blest imperial rays,
And pure cerulean pearl.
Precious the pentitential tear …
Christopher Smart, ‘A Song to David’ (1763), stanza (and line)
One of a series of Cheltenham & Gloucester advertisements from the 1990s/200s, featuring a boy pearl diver. The series was initiated in 1995, filmed by underwater camera specialist Mike Portelly.
Whether on earth, in air, or main,
Sure ev’ry thing alive is vain!
Does not the hawk all fowls survey,
As destin’d only for his prey?
And do not tyrants, prouder things,
Think men were born for slaves to kings?
When the crab views the pearly strands,
Or Tagus bright with golden sands,
Or crawls beside the coral grove,
And hears the ocean roll above,
“Nature is too profuse,” says he,
“Who gave all these to pleasure me!”
When bord’ring pinks and roses bloom,
And ev’ry garden breathes perfume,
When peaches glow with sunny dyes
Like Laura‘s cheek when blushes rise,
When with huge figs the branches bend,
When clusters from the vine depend,
The snail looks round on flow’r and tree,
And cries, “All these were made for me!”
John Gay, Fable XLIX: The Man and the Flea (1727), first stanza
To gratify him, Miriam looked round at the specimens in marble or plaster, of which there were several in the room, comprising originals or casts of most of the designs that Kenyon had thus far produced. He was still too young to have accumulated a large gallery of such things. What he had to show were chiefly the attempts and experiments, in various directions, of a beginner in art, acting as a stern tutor to himself, and profiting more by his failures than by any successes of which he was yet capable. Some of them, however, had great merit; and in the pure, fine glow of the new marble, it may be, they dazzled the judgment into awarding them higher praise than they deserved. Miriam admired the statue of a beautiful youth, a pearlfisher; who had got entangled in the weeds at the bottom of the sea, and lay dead among the pearl-oysters, the rich shells, and the seaweeds, all of like value to him now.
“The poor young man has perished among the prizes that he sought,” remarked she. “But what a strange efficacy there is in death! If we cannot all win pearls, it causes an empty shell to satisfy us just as well. I like this statue, though it is too cold and stern in its moral lesson; and, physically, the form has not settled itself into sufficient repose.”
As he attended her through the antechamber, she pointed to the statue of the pearl-diver.
“My secret is not a pearl,” said she; “yet a man might drown himself in plunging after it.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun (1860), extracts from chapters XIII and XIV.
An infant when it gazes on a light,
A child the moment when it drains the breast,
A devotee when soars the Host in sight,
An Arab with a stranger for a guest,
A sailor when the prize has struck in fight,
A miser filling his most hoarded chest,
Feel rapture; but not such true joy are reaping
As they who watch o’er what they love while sleeping.
For there it lies so tranquil, so beloved,
All that it hath of life with us is living;
So gentle, stirless, helpless, and unmoved,
And all unconscious of the joy ‘t is giving;
All it hath felt, inflicted, pass’d, and proved,
Hush’d into depths beyond the watcher’s diving:
There lies the thing we love with all its errors
And all its charms, like death without its terrors.
Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto the Second, two stanzas (1819-1824)
I dive down into the depth of the ocean of forms,
hoping to gain the perfect pearl of the formless.
No more sailing from harbor to harbor with this my weather-beaten boat.
The days are long passed when my sport was to be tossed on waves.
And now I am eager to die into the deathless.
Into the audience hall by the fathomless abyss
where swells up the music of toneless strings
I shall take this harp of my life.
I shall tune it to the notes of forever,
and when it has sobbed out its last utterance,
lay down my silent harp at the feet of the silent.
Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Ocean of Forms,’ from Gitanjali (1913)