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Sea Fever By: John Masefield
Transcript of Sea Fever By: 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,
British poet John Edward Masefield was born in Herefordshire. He studied at King’s School in Warwick before training as a merchant seaman. In 1895, he deserted his ship in New York City and worked there in a carpet factory before returning to London to write poems describing his experience at sea. Masefield was appointed British poet laureate in 1930.
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.
He is returning to the sea again, and he feels an urgency. He says "the lonely sea and the sky" creating a vision of a wide horizon, expressing the landscape he craves for. He wishes for “a tall ship and a star to steer her by,” reinforcing the idea of a solitary exsistence, of a man with expansive surroundings all to himself. The repetition of “grey” could suggest a bleak landscape but there is a muted softness and stillness in “grey” which is appealing rather than sinister.
“I must go down to the seas again,” the repetition indicating the power of the narrator’s yearning and how he is driven towards the sea. He suggests that he is being called by the “running tide” which has “a wild call” and there is something romantic in this, a compulsion that he is unable to control, which is reinforced by “and a clear call that may not be denied.”
This tells us more about the life of a sailor as he describes it as “the vagrant gypsy life,” suggesting that it is one of wandering without a place and this is reinforced by the comparisons to the free creatures in nature that the poet chooses, as he tells the readers that it is “the gull’s way and the whale’s way,” creatures of the air and sea conducting a life of flight and migration. Masefield uses a simile to describe the wind’s sharpness, comparing it to “a whetted knife,” but there is no negativity here; it is something enjoyable. As the he states: “And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,” giving a clear picture of the good fellowship between crew mates. The poem ends peacefully away from the energetic images of the sea previously listed with “quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over” and there is a sense of satisfaction from him here; that being a sailor is a way that he will find peace and finally his yearning will be quenched. A trick refers to the time that a sailor would be at great alertness and responsibility.
" where the wind’s like a whetted knife "
"to the lonely sea and the sky"
" a star to steer her by"
"To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife"
"And a grey mist on the sea’s face"
line nine when the speaker compares "the vagrant gypsy life" to the ocean. "Sea Fever" is dominated by implied metaphors comparing the speakers life to the sea. For example, the word "trick" in line ten implies that the speaker's life has been like a sea voyage. The complex metaphors increase the emotional tone of "Sea Fever" and help the reader relate to the speaker's passion for the sea.
The refrain "I must go down to the seas again" is one of the many poetic devices used to show the strong longing the speaker has for the sea
The most important element used in this poem was metaphors, which helped to better understand the overall theme of the poem. It creates an image of powerful ocean swells. metaphors increase the emotional tone of “Sea Fever” and help the reader relate to the speaker’s passion for the sea and personification, simile and metaphor, in the poem is enhanced by further development of the theme and the imagery.
Form: 3 stanzas, 12 lines
Rhyme Scheme: AABB
Repetition: "i must go down to the seas again" ( Lines 1,5 and 9)
Imagery: Lonely sea and sky, grey mist on the seas face
Figurative Language: Line 10:" where the wind’s like a whetted knife “ (simile)
Speaker: A man who desperately long to go to sea, we assume it is the author, knowing that he has had a previous life in the sea.
Tone: Desperate, Passionate, wondering.
Theme: The theme is wanderlust. The poem’s speaker hears the call of the sea—an irresistible invitation to adventure, exploration, and independent living. Most people experience wanderlust from time to time. Some may wish to cruise the Caribbean. Since prehistoric times, humankind has always been on the move. His poem sums up the allure and excitement of traveling in a yawing ship on rolling, wind-blown seas.