Sea Fever

by John Masefield (1878-1967)
(suggested by Garth Battista
of Breakaway Books)


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 gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray 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.



John Masefield (1878-1967) was born in Ledbury, Hertfordshire. He was the son of a lawyer, but had a passion for the sea and adventure and in his youth took off for America for two years where for part of the time he worked as a bar-keeper in New York. If you are interested, you can still visit it today at the corner of Sixth and Greenwich avenues. During this whole period, Masefield was actively writing poetry, and this poem was written in 1900, when he was only 22. He returned to England in 1897, and married in 1903. But it wasn't until he published his collection called The Everlasting Mercy in 1911 that he came fully to prominence. During the war he served with the Red Cross in France. He was an active writer and was the Poet Laureate from 1930 until his death in 1967.