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“Sea Fever” is one of the famous works of the English poet, John Masefield. The poem was written and first published in 1902, in the poet’s poetry collection called the “Salt-Water Ballads”. The poem talks about the sea and its nature. The poet tries to take lessons from the ever changing waves of the sea. The poem describes the excitement and curiosity that the poet felt towards the sea when he was a young child. The poem thus has the child-like tones of excitement and wonder.
About the poet
John Edward Masefield was born in 1878 in the United Kingdom. He was an English poet and writer. He was lauded with the position of Poet Laureate from 1930 to 1967. He published numerous works during his lifetime. Some of his famous works included “The Midnight Folk” and “The Box of Delights” which were children’s novels. He also published many famous poems and poetry collections including “The Everlasting Mercy” and “Sea-Fever”.
The poem is made up of 3 quatrains. A quatrain six a stanza that consists of 4 lines.
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.
The speaker starts by displaying his wish to go back to the sea. The speaker says that he wants to go back to the sea. The sea is described as lonely. The speaker wants to go into the sea on a boat and all he needs is a tall ship and the North Star for direction. The speaker says that he does not need any materialistic things on his journey on the sea, all he needs is the movement of the ship, the songs of the wind blowing and the ship’s sails moving in the breeze. The speaker wishes to experience the mist on the surface of the sea and the morning sun rays that hit the water.
The poem starts by the poet declaring his desire to go to the seas. He wants to go to the “lonely sea and the sky”. Here the poet says that the sky and the sea are lonely to hint at the fact that he himself feels incomplete without them. The poet says that he does not require a lot of equipment in order to sail on the sea. All the peot requires is a ship and the pole star. This brings in the element of spirituality as the poet needs nothing for the journey and guidance but himself, his ship and the star.
Next, the poet personifies the other elements as his companions on the journey. “Wheel”,”wind” and “sail” are personified to be the other partners of the poet on the ship. The poet expresses his desire to be on the sea and watch the sun rise. He wishes to see the “grey mist” and the “grey dawn”.
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.
The speaker again says that it is his desire to go to the seas again. He wants to hear the sound of the waves and the running tides. He says that the call of the sea is wild. This wild and primitive call can not be ignored by the poet any longer. So, in order to set sail out to the sea, all the speaker needs is a windy day and a clear sky with white fluffy clouds overhead. The speaker wishes to experience the splashes of water from the waves and the sound of the sea-gulls crying.
The poet begins the second stanza by repeating the same phrase “I must go down to the seas again”. He does this to put stress on his desire to be back at sea. He says that the “running tide” is calling to him. This call is described as a “wild call”. By “wild call” the poet means ancient or primitive.
This ancient call is very alluring and can not be denied or ignored by the poet any longer. The poet badly wants to go to the sea and experience the “windy days” on the sea and watch the “white clouds flying” over a clear sky. He wants to feel the breeze and mist of water from the sea and hear the sea-gulls crying overhead.
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.
The speaker again says that he has to go to the sea. He wants to live life as a gypsy. This lie will be vagrant. He wants to live life in the gull’s and whale’s way. He wants to live in a place where he can feel the sea breeze. He wants to live where the wind cuts sharp like a knife. For doing all this, all the speaker needs is a happy story told by a fellow-rover. The speaker says that all he wants is a quiet slumber and a nice dream after his long journey on the sea is finished.
In the last stanza, the poet says that the type of life he wants to live is the gypsy life. A gypsy is a wanderer who never stays in one place and keeps moving from place to place. He does not want to live a stable, settled and comfortable life. He wants movement and adventure. He wants to live life at sea. He wants to be one with the sea by living life the “gull’s way and the whale’s way”. By this line, the poet emphasizes his need to have a deep connection with the water body. To do this, he wants to hear stories of sea voyages from a “fellow-rover”. A rover is a sailor at sea. The poet wishes to hear stories about the sea from sailors who have lived at sea.
In the end, the poet says that he wants a quiet and deep sleep filled with sweet dreams on the sea. Here “sleep” refers to death. The poet’s wish is to live out his days and die on the sea.