MLA Gold Award Site

Why do we say "Ships that pass in the night.

Well-Known Expressions

Ships that pass in the night

Meaning:

People who meet once and form a close bond, but never meet again

Background:

This saying originates from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Theologian's Tale", which forms part of Tales of a Wayside Inn, a collection of poems narrated in the voices of a group of people in the tavern of the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts - all contemporaries and friends of Longfellow. Although the narrators are not identified, many are so clearly characterized that they can be identified.

The Theologian's Tale is clearly identified as written from the point of view of Elizabeth Haddon (1680-1762). Haddon was born in England and set sail to the New World in 1701 as a single woman without family. Shortly after her arrival she made a marriage proposal to John Estaugh, a Quaker minister, and they were married in 1702. Their courtship is narrated in "The Theologian's Tale", also known as "Elizabeth":

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.

"The Theologian's Tale" ("Elizabeth"), Stanza IV

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Victoria
by Daisy Goodwin

"A hit…The research is impeccable, the attention to detail, perfect." - The Sunday Mirror (UK)

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Second Mrs. Hockaday
    by Susan Rivers

    A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win No Man's Land

No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien

Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.

Enter

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Conclave
    Conclave
    by Robert Harris
    Although best known for his fact-based historical thrillers, in Conclave, best-selling author Robert...
  • Book Jacket: Conclave
    Conclave
    by Robert Harris
    Although best known for his fact-based historical thrillers, in Conclave, best-selling author Robert...
  • Book Jacket: A Question of Mercy
    A Question of Mercy
    by Elizabeth Cox
    Authors leave little gifts for readers, which seem to turn up at the exact right moment. Perhaps a ...

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H W S W T Devil S H A L S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.