This poem, which Addison called 'a divine ode made by a gentleman upon the conclusion of his travels', first appeared in his Spectator No. 489 of Saturday 20 September 1712. The essay reveals his deistic cast of mind: 'Such an object (the ocean) naturally raises in my thoughts the idea of an Almighty Being, and con vinces me of his existence, as much as metaphysical demonstration/ In the poem, however, Addison talks of the tumultuous ocean not only as a physical reality, but with connotations of spiritual upheaval. Clearly Psalm 107, from which he quotes in the Spectator essay, was his inspiration:
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters: these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waters thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths, their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then they are glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.