Green Glass

David and I went stand-up paddling today and it was gorgeous. He showed me some caves you have to swim into to get inside—"Pirate's caves," he calls them, which I love. And the color and clarity of the water—"green glass," as David wrote in his blog about our expedition—made me think of a poem my dad read to me when I was young.

It’s called “Overheard on a Salt Marsh,” by Harold Monro, and it became a family favorite. Dad would read it in dramatic fashion, doing the voices of both the nymph and the goblin, and it was so thrilling and mournful (and just a tiny bit scary) that my siblings and I would beg him to do it again and again. I can’t do it justice by describing it, so here it is:

Overheard on a Salt Marsh

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.


Give them me. Give them me.


Then I will howl all night in the reeds,

Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,

Better than voices of winds that sing,

Better than any man's fair daughter,

Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.


I will howl in the deep lagoon

For your green glass beads, I love them so.

Give them me. Give them.


Harold Monro

Sigh. That’s a hard act to follow. With thanks and apologies to Mr. Monro, a post-paddling haiku:

A sea of green glass.

Secret caves. Dolphins! Why not

a nymph and goblin?