“The real reason why “The Waves” comes close, as a novel, to going out of bounds is that its true interests are those of poetry. Mrs. Woolf has not only passed up superficial reality; she has also passed up psychological reality. She is not really concerned in “The Waves” with people, she is hardly concerned in the prosaic sense with humanity: she is only concerned with the symbols, the poetic symbols, of life—the changing seasons, day and night, bread and wine, fire and cold, time and space, birth and death and change. These things treated separately, as facts, are indeed the stuff of a novel; but treated collectively, as symbols, they are the stuff of poetry. In spirit, in language, in effect “The Waves” is—not a poetic novel but a poem, a kind of symphonic poem with themes and thematic development, in prose. It is as weak in genuine perceptiveness as it is rich in sensibility; and even when a character seems most skillful in penetrating himself, it is the essence of a mood that he captures, not a truth. Mrs. Woolf does not give us her characters as men and women; she gives them to us clearly in seed (Rhoda, for example, is “frightened and awkward”) and in seed they remain throughout the book. Their thoughts, their words, their preliminary differences from one another become stylized and they themselves fit, at length, into a verbal pattern, half ornamentally. They are not six people but six imagist poets, six facets of the imagist poet that Mrs. Woolf is herself.”
“To-day we drove to Bognor. It was strange at Bognor - a white, vague, powerful sea, with long waves falling heavily, with a crash of frosty white out of the pearly whiteness of the day, of the wide sea. And the small boats that were out in the distance heaved, and seemed to glisten shadowily. Strange the sea was, so strong. I saw a soldier on the pier, with only one leg. He was young and handsome: and strangely self-conscious, and slightly ostentatious: but confused. As yet, he does not realise anything, he is still in the shock. And he is strangely roused by the women, who seem to have a craving for him. They look at him with eyes of longing, and they want to talk to him. So he is roused, like a roused male, yet there is more wistfulness and wonder than passion or desire. I could see him under chloroform having the leg amputated. It was still in his face. But he was brown and handsome and strong.
It seemed to me anything might come of that white, silent, opalescent sea; and the great icy shocks of foam were strange. I felt as if legions were marching in the mist. I cannot tell you why, but I am afraid. I am afraid of the ghosts of the dead. They seem to come marching home in legions over the white, silent sea, breaking in on us with a roar and white iciness. Perhaps this is why I feel so afraid. I don’t know. But the land looked warm, with a warm, blue sky, very homely: and over the sea legions of white ghosts tramping.”