This collection of five poems set to music by Elgar has been
criticised on a number of pretexts : the poems now seem rather
dated; apart from the rather superficial link of the sea, there
is no thematic interconnection between the poems, so that the
cycle as a whole lacks a coherent structure; and Elgar's settings
make little attempt at a grand portrayal of the sea as other
composers have successfully attempted.
Fortunately, the listening public pay little heed to such
criticisms, for the song cycle remains one of the most popular
of Elgar's - and indeed any composer's - vocal works. The second
song is of particular interest. The words are by the composer's
wife Alice who provided texts for a number of Elgar's early
songs. Elgar set the poem some three years earlier, publishing
it separately under the title Love Alone but later incorporated
it into the song cycle, in which it is undoubtedly the most
charming of the five songs.