Today is National Poetry Day, and although it’s familiar to all, this poem by John Masefield was always going to find a place on this blog. Sea-Fever was first published in 1902 in the compilation Salt-Water Ballads (Salt-Water Ballads! – don’t you just want to have a crumpled original copy in your pocket at all times?). Today I got thinking of the poem’s last words, ‘when the long trick’s over’: a trick being a journey at sea or a turn at the helm, but in this case, of course, a life. …But the poem needs no explanation, being a perfect song of yearning.
Image by C. Devine 2011
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.