Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

The Sleeping Albatross: a poem from 1850

An occasional series of stories in ACAP Latest News covers the usage of albatrosses and petrels in art and literature, including poetry in the three official ACAP languages of English, French and Spanish.

A poem from the mid 19th century by the Anerican poet Hannah Flagg Gould (1789-1865) follows.

The Sleeping Albatross

As lone the bold Albatross sits on the billow
That rocks him in slumber, beneath his furled wing,
His head on his side has a warm, downy pillow;
And calmly he rides, like a brave ocean king.


Come down from his tour through the air he was cleaving,
And borne on the wave like a crest of its foam,
He fears not its power, while he’s lulled by its heaving,
And rests as the traveller rests him at home.


Secure from the foes that look up from beneath him,
His breast is bound close in a soft, plumy mail;
He dreads not the blast, nor the surge that may wreathe him,
But mounts on the swell, and glides under the gale.


His field was the air, while awake and in motion;
His guide, One who guides the light sparrow to fall;
The sky his pavilion ; his bed, the whole ocean;
When sleeping, his watchman, the Maker of all.


And while the bright stars, that now o’er him are beaming,
To his hidden vision no lustre can pour,

Perhaps of that one is the Albatross dreaming,
That points to his far-away nest on the shore.


Behold, my faint spirit, the wild bird, reposing
Alone on the flood, is a teacher for thee!
Though brought to deep waters, an eye never-closing
Is o’er thee, – thy Watcher commands wind and sea.


When all is uncertain and dreary before thee,
And night’s sable curtains around thee are drawn;
Be peaceful, with Bethlehem’s Star beaming o’er thee,
And trust, till thy home-showing morning shall dawn.


Then, up for the flight, with a wide pinion springing,
To scent the sweet land-breeze that comes from the flowers;
And, quick from thy breast the cold water-drops flinging,
Regain at the sunrise thine own native bowers!

A Wandering Albatross at sea in the Southern Ocean

Photograph by John Chardine

 Click here and here to read poems in French and Spanish – with English translations - about albatrosses.

Click here to access an 1857 text of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” written in 1797/98 - surely the most well-known poem that includes an albatross.


Gould, H.F. 1850.  The Sleeping Albatross. In: New Poems.  Boston: W. & J. Reynolds.  pp. 106-107.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 August 2013