A Life on the Ocean Wave

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"A Life on the Ocean Wave" is a poem-turned-song by Epes Sargent published in 1838 and set to music by Henry Russell.

Origin of the poem and song[edit]

One day Sargent was walking on The Battery in New York City watching the ships enter the harbour. This scene inspired Sargent to write a poem, which Russell later put to music. The song soon became popular in both the United Kingdom and the United States.[1]

History of cultural uses of the song[edit]

At an 1851 celebration in Salem, Massachusetts, the Boston Cadet Band gave the new clipper ship Witch of the Wave a lively sendoff by striking up "A Life on the Ocean Wave" as the SS R. B. Forbes towed the new clipper out to set sail for Boston.[2]

In 1882, the Deputy Adjutant General of the Royal Marines requested that the Bandmaster of each Royal Marine Division (Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham) submit an arrangement for a new regimental march for the Corps, if possible based on a naval song. Kappey, the Bandmaster of the Chatham Division, submitted an arrangement of "A Life on the Ocean Wave", with an eight bar trio from "The Sea" by Sigismund Neukomm, which was authorised for use as the regimental quick march of the Corps of Royal Marines in 1882.

In the United States, it is the official march of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

In Portugal, it was adopted as the march of the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) that overthrew the dictatorship on 25 April 1974.

The tune, played by the Band of the Royal Marines, is played over the opening credits of the 1992 BBC television film An Ungentlemanly Act, about the first days of the invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.

The tune, slightly altered, provides the music for the Latter-day Saint hymn "Who's On The Lord's Side?"[3]


  1. ^ Cleaveland, Nancy (2009). "A Life on the Ocean Wave". Pioneer Girl, Fact and Fiction of Laura Ingalls Wilder, A to Z. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2015. A Life on the Ocean Wave was published in 1847, having been conceived while Epes Sargent was walking on the Battery in New York. He wished it could be put to music, but was told by a friend that it wasn't suitable. When Sargent showed the words to Henry Russell, he dashed to the piano and almost immediately put the words to music, and the song became popular in both England and America.
  2. ^ Clark, Arthur H. (1910). The Clipper Ship Era, An Epitome of Famous American and British Clipper Ships, Their Owners, Builders, Commanders, and Crews, 1843-1869. Camden, ME: G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 166–169.
  3. ^ "Who's On The Lord's Side?" (Hymn 260), Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985.

External links[edit]