Personal Choice 72
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) was an English poet and writer, and Poet Laureate from 1930 until 1967. Among his best-known works are the children's novels The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights, and the poems The Everlasting Mercy and Sea-Fever.
During several of my childhood winters my father would hire an old shack on the sand at West beach during the school holidays. It was one of a motley string of dwellings that were eventually so storm damaged and dilapidated that they were demolished. Some days we simply needed to stay in the warm kitchen and the nights were wild and frightening with wind and rain and the surf breaking only a few metres from our front porch. They were exiting and wonderful days and it was during this time that I discovered Masefield’s poem. And it still echoes those childhood long and special days of the lonely sea and the sky.