Water in this poem is very closely linked to suffering. It starts off as a sea of pain and ends up a little puddle of guilt. Since the poem has a lot of Christian religious imagery, it's important to think about how water usually means rebirth and baptism in that tradition, so this linking it to suffering is kind of subversive.
- Lines 3-4: Here "everything suffered" is compared to a strong, violent sea in a metaphor, with an "undertow" that finally "wells up" in the soul. The violent tide of suffering ends up in the soul of individual human beings.
- Line 16: Here that same tide of everything that the man has experienced "wells up" again, but this time it forms a little pool of guilt in his eye. Now this metaphor has a tear standing in for all of the guilt and suffering of the man's life. Bad times.