British poet John Edward Masefield (1878-1967) was born in Herefordshire, England. He studied at King’s School in Warwick before training as a merchant seaman.
In 1895, Masefield deserted his ship in New York City and worked there in a carpet factory before returning to London where he began writing poems describing his experience at sea.
Masefield was appointed British poet laureate in 1930, a post he held until his death. The only person to hold the office for a longer period was Alfred, Lord Tennyson. On his appointment The Times newspaper said of Masefield: “His poetry could touch to beauty the plain speech of everyday life.”
“Sea-Fever” first appeared in Salt-Water Ballads – Masefield’s first volume of poetry published in 1902 in London. When Masefield died, his ashes were placed in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.
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.