phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|

Full fathom five

Posted by Bob on April 25, 2003

In Reply to: Full fathom five posted by Brian from Shawnee on April 25, 2003

: : : I just ran across the phrase "full fathom five", meaning something like "completely sunk into despair". I like the sound of it.

: : : I took a look in the archives here but all I could find were two discussions about "sea-change". Apparently the phrases "full fathom five" and "sea-change" were spoken by Ariel in The Tempest.

: : : But does anyone know the origina of "full fathom five"? Is it from The Tempest originally?

: : This is Ariel's song from The Tempest:

: : Full fathom five thy father lies;
: : Of his bones are coral made;
: : Those are pearls that were his eyes:
: : Nothing of him that doth fade
: : But doth suffer a sea-change
: : Into something rich and strange.
: : Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell

: : Whether it originated with Shakespeare I don't know, although it seems likely.

: Thanks, but I was hoping that someone might know the significance of "five fathoms". For example most of us would grasp "six feet under" as a typical burial depth for a deceased person. Could this be a typical depth for someone sent to Davy Jones' Locker?

The alliteration makes it memorable and poetic, but five fathoms (30 feet) deep was, in the days before scuba gear, impossibly, irretrievably, lost.