Sea Fever

Wreckers Coast of Northumberland, JMW Turner (1833/34), Yale Center for British Art

Matching my current reading focus is John Masefield’s “Sea Fever” (quoted here, in full, from The Poetry Foundation’s website):

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.


Ernest Shepard, 1908

But then so also does this quote from The Wind in the Willows: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

I’m not a sailor — too prone to mal de mer — but I like the idea of heading out for an adventure on the sea, and thus my theme for this year’s reading list (coinciding, as I wrote previously, with Melville’s 200th anniversary). Since that post, I’ve added to my list: Kenneth Grahame’s classic paean to life on the water, plus an obscure novel called Ahab’s Wife (had to get Moby Dick into this somehow), plus To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis’s time-traveling tip-of-the-hat to Jerome K Jerome’s wonderful Three Men in a Boat. To say nothing of Swallows and Amazons (forever!).

I’ll keep you posted.

About Lizzie Ross

in no particular order: author, teacher, cyclist, world traveler, single parent. oh, and i read. a lot.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Am reading, Classic, Fiction, Seafaring. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Sea Fever

  1. I love that poem. I have never read it before and found myself saying it out loud. The words are very visual to me.

    I can’t remember the titles on your list and I am wondering if you have ever read, Two Years before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr? I have not, but it’s a book I feel I need to read. Maybe I’ll read it in August along with Moby Dick…

    • Lizzie Ross says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Laurie. I haven’t read Dana’s book, so I’m happy to see that I can get it free for my e-reader. Like you, I probably should read it.
      BTW, before you jump into Moby Dick, see if you can get Holling Clancy Holling’s Seabird from a library — a YA non-fiction book with lots of labeled images of ships, whales, harpoons, scrimshaw, etc.

  2. Janet says:

    “All I ask is a tall she and a star to steer her by.” In my head, I heard Gene Wilder’s Willie Wonka. What fun.

    I finished Willis’ The Doomsday Book earlier this year and have To Say Nothing of The Dog in the cue.

    Now, how many days before you are actually by the sea having some fun?

  3. Sandra says:

    For some reason I’m not getting notifications of your posts, Lizzie. I’ve re-subscribed so fingers crossed now. Love the Masefield poem and an ideal accompaniment for my current Daphne obsession: chimes perfectly with The Loving Spirit 🙂 I suspect my tbr may be about to grow by several ocean-going titles…

    • Lizzie Ross says:

      Thanks, Sandra. I’ve been enjoying your Daphne posts, and have even found out that my library has an e-version of The Loving Spirit. It’s on my TBR list for this year.
      I hope the email issue resolves itself.

      • Sandra says:

        Fingers crossed that you enjoy The Loving Spirit – it was her first book, remember – and that the email problem is now resolved 🙂

      • Lizzie Ross says:

        Yay about the email problem.
        And first book or last, any plot crossing several generations is for me (but I may go for Don’t Look Now and The Birds before TLS; Rebecca is the only one I’ve read so far).

      • Sandra says:

        I think that’s wise 🙂

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