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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 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.

This poem is in the public domain.

John Masefield (1878-1967) was an English poet, author, and playwright. Both his parents died while he was a child, and at the age of thirteen, annoyed with John's "addiction" to reading, the aunt in charge of caring for him sent him off to train for a life as a sailor. Although his experiences at sea provided much material for the stories and poems he would later write, John soon tired of that harsh life and, on a voyage to New York, he jumped ship. For two years, he worked at odd jobs in that city, using his free time for reading and writing. He eventually returned to England, married, had two children, and established himself as a significant literary talent. As his stature as a writer continued to grow, John became an internationally successful lecturer and was appointed as England's poet laureate, a position he held for nearly forty years. He actively wrote and published until he was 88 years old.


Post New Comment:
My late dad, who was in the Royal Marines and merchant navy, loved this poem.
Posted 03/04/2024 05:24 AM
Elizabeth Connor:
The sea is a magnet for me and this poem has always touched me.
Posted 03/26/2023 06:22 PM
By chance, I came across the first 2 lines of this poem and sort of recognized it. Then I realized that I had learned the "Mad Magazine"(rip)version of it and had never seen the original until now.
Posted 11/23/2021 07:56 PM
I love this poem. I had to recite it at a school show when I was in fifth grade in Brooklyn's PS 225 in Brighton Beach. I would always go down to the beach area to sit on the rock jetties between the "bays" This was the beginning of WW2 and I remember the oil slicks resulting on the beaches from the U boat attacks on the shipping out of New York City.
Posted 05/28/2021 01:20 PM
I learned this poem as a small child in the 1950�s. I went to parochial school and was so fortunate to be taught by nuns who valued poetry. My family loved the sea and my mother believed the ocean was the cure for almost everything! My brother passed away as a retired rear admiral in US Navy.
Posted 10/22/2020 10:25 AM
Takes me back over 60 years and reminds me of a wonderfully mad Welshman who taught me the appreciation of fine poetry, English hunting songs and the beauty of the English language. David C.
Posted 02/21/2020 09:53 PM
My Mother used to relate this poem, when I was a child and it does bring back those childhood memories!!
Posted 07/25/2018 04:35 PM
This reminds me of my dad. He was in the navy, and loved the sea, the sea always seemed to be his princess. The beautiful , and black stories he would tell me, giving his princess respect at all times. I love this poem, thank you Jayne for adding it today !
Posted 02/24/2011 02:31 PM
When my husband was into sailing and we had sailboats, I always felt those first two lines about a "tall ship and a star to steer her by..." Sheer magic!
Posted 02/24/2011 09:21 AM
Thanks for posting this . . . I hadn't revisited it in years and it's good to see how fine it is--sharp images, rollicking rhythm, vivid diction.
Posted 02/24/2011 08:02 AM

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