Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sea Fever - John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
   And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

For anyone who has ever felt the keen pang of wanderlust, I present John Masefield's poem.  A former merchant seaman, he traveled from England to New York City where he deserted to work for a time.  Eventually he returned to London to write, and found great success in doing so.  It seems clear to me that that thrill of travel never quite left him.  Once you get the itch, it never really goes away, as I can now attest.

The call of the sea and all its allure is at the heart of every line of this poem.  Its driving rhythm and power are inescapable.  The descriptions are crisp and clear, as picturesque as a postcard.  For Masefield, living the life of a sailor, which is having nothing, means he has everything he names in the poem.  He has the sky, and the sea, and the company of other like-minded spirits.  It's a romantic image, and for anyone who has ever traveled even slightly afield, whether by land, sea, or sky, it will raise that familiar impulse to get up and go.  Somewhere, anywhere, it doesn't matter.  Once you start moving, everything is yours.

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