The Whale’s Way

“Sea Fever” (1902)

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.


John Masefield (1878–1967)

2 thoughts on “The Whale’s Way

    • The sea’s a great topic for poetry.

      Yes. A.E.H. had some interesting things to say about it in his essay on C.A.S.:

      The sea, to be sure, is a large department; and that is how it succeeded in attracting Swinburne’s attention; for he seldom noticed any object of external nature unless it was very large, very brilliant, or very violently coloured. But the sea as an object of poetry is somewhat barren. Those poets who have a true eye for nature and a sure pen for describing it, spend few words describing the sea; and their few words describe it better than Swinburne’s thousands. — Swinburne, A.E. Housman

      A shame that the people best equipped to survive it are often the least equipped to describe it.

      Or the things best-equipped, like sharks.

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