1 EAGLETON NOTES: Not Waving But Drowning



Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Not Waving But Drowning

Something happened the other day (I can't remember what) and a friend said "He's not waving but drowning!" "Gosh", I said, "that's a new take on the crying wolf theme. He's not crying wolf this time. He really has a problem.". [The last few sentences reminded me of school when you were given an unpunctuated paragraph and you had to punctuate it so that it made sense.] Anyway, as usual I digress. My friend then went on to explain that she was quoting from a poem and then went on to recite it.

Now I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to poetry and having the memory of a goldfish (sorry if that's insulting to goldfish) I'm not a great one for reciting it either. I've always had a 'thing' about Keats poetry and I love Shakespeare but this poem really struck home. In particular the last two lines reminded me of myself until I was thrown a lifeline by a friend a few years ago. So I thought I'd share it:

Stevie Smith - Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.


  1. It is sad, but I have seen people who've lived this way. That's quite a poem and what a conversation, too.

  2. It is sad.
    I watched the movie "The Hours" the other night. In the essence of this poem, there is something akin to it in the movie. It is a spin on the life of the author Virginia Woolf. I had not seen it before, even though it was an Academy Award winner...I had missed it. Anyway...it's full of meaning, but quite heavy. It leaves one thinking. Have you watched it?