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.”
Born in Ledbury, England, in June 1878, John Masefield was an English poet and writer and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1930 until his death in 1967. His mother died giving birth to his sister when he was only six and he went to live with his aunt. His father died soon after following a mental breakdown.
After attending King’s School in Warwick he went to sea at the age of fifteen on a large sailing ship, the HMS Conway, then worked for a time in New York City before returning to England in 1897. It was his experiences aboard the ship that provided him with the raw material that made him famous as a sea poet. It was in 1902 he published a collection of sea poems entitled Salt-Water Ballads, in which “Sea Fever” appeared.
Like Denny Bradbury, in her poem “So Grey the Sea” from her new collection of poetry “De:versify” where she writes:
“ So grey the sea
All white the foam
I journey forth
To come back home..”
Masefield talks of being drawn back to the sea – each of his poem’s three stanzas starts with the words “I must go down to the seas again…”- as he hears the call of the sea and is pulled towards a sense of exploring and adventure that the sea gives him; a feeling of wanderlust and travel.
Denny Bradbury talks of the power the sea holds for her in her poem “Sea Changes”:
“..Me, I walk along the shore –
Stare at the sea and smile,
Fling my arms and turn about
for fully half a mile.
While breathing in the wholesome air,
The waves come up to greet me.
They fizz around my naked feet
Then run away so sweetly.
My cares are gone,
And I can face the world again
Sea’s never still;
It comes and goes
And soothes with equal measure.”
Just as Denny Bradbury’s Seascape inspired poems often have hidden metaphors for life, Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever” can also be interpreted as a metaphor for the journey of life, the challenges that life poses and the joy that can be found in the most simple elements of nature and life – a “windy day with the white clouds flying” “sea-gulls crying” or “a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover.”