Photo Essay: Sea fever

Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2011 in Features

Photo Essay: Sea fever

photos by Steve Cartwright

Sea Fever

I must 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 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 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.

John Masefield

I memorized this poem as a kid, and it still speaks to me, as it may to just about any sailor and lover of the sea, the source of so much support in so many ways. Masefield, who for 37 years was poet laureate of Great Britain, was  just 24 when this poem was published in 1902. He had already dropped out of school, gone to sea and worked at newspapers. He moved to New York City, was jobless for awhile, then worked in a carpet factory. He married a teacher and they had two children. John Masefield died in May 1967.

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