I read in Keats' Hyperion:

[...] No, by Tellus and her briny robes!

(Hyperion, 246)

Tellus is a Latin goddess, her Greek counterpart being Gaia.

I am looking for the Greek or Latin source of the words "briny robes". Does an author like Hesiod or Homer (or even Ovid) refer to this expression?

  • If there is no attested phrase that Keats was referencing, would you be interested in a translation of this anyway?
    – Adam
    Apr 29, 2021 at 12:59
  • @Adam : why not ? A translation into Greek or Latin might help me to find the original expression more quickly.
    – suizokukan
    Apr 29, 2021 at 13:18

1 Answer 1


The Greek word that means briny is ἁλμυρός and appears in both Homer and Hesiod. For example:

Grant lovely song and celebrate the holy race of the deathless gods who are for ever, those that were born of Earth and starry Heaven and gloomy Night and them that briny Sea did rear. (Hesiod, Theogony, 106-108)

However it doesn't appear as a description of the so-called robes that clothe the Earth. Rather, this description of the oceans was the product of Keats' creativity as affirmed in an article published in Sharpe's London Magazine:

Many are the poetical descriptions of the foam of the breaking sea, such as "Tellus and her briny robes;" (W. E. W., "The Sea and the Poets")

A similar affirmation is made in the following PDF:

"Briny robes" in this line refers to the oceans which seem like the earth's skirts.

Some other poetical descriptions:

Besides speaking of the salty sea, one of the well known descriptions that Homer used was that of the wine-dark sea. He also used the idea of a robe clothing the Earth, but rather than a briny robe, this was the golden robe of dawn:

"Now as the Dawn flung out her golden robe across the earth" (Homer, The Iliad, Book VIII)

Ovid portrays the seas encircling the Earth not as a robe, but as an embrace:

"Nor seas about the shores their arms had thrown" (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book I)

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