Three Poems About the Sea

Although I grew up in Idaho, a landlocked state 800 miles away from the Pacific Ocean, I always liked the poem “Sea Fever” by John Masefield. I think most people are drawn to the sea in some way or another.

I even had “Sea Fever” memorized once, but I’ve forgotten it all except for the lines, “I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky” and “the flung spray and the blown spume.” Here is the entire poem:

Sea Fever
by 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 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.

While I was thinking about this poem—whose narrator is very much an old sailor inhabiting 20th century Georgian England—I remembered that all the elves in the high-fantasy world of The Lord of the Rings by English author J. R. R. Tolkien also longed for the sea in much the same way.

When the elf Legolas traveled near the sea and for the first time heard sea gulls calling, his innate sea-longing awoke and was expressed in this poem:

Legolas’s Song of the Sea
by J. R. R. Tolkien

To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gull are crying,

The wind is blowing, and the white foam is flying.
West, west away, the round sun is falling.
Grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling.
The voices of my people that have gone before me?
I will leave, I will leave the woods that bore me;
For our days are ending and our years failing.
I will pass the wide waters lonely sailing.
Long are the waves on the Last Shore falling,
Sweet are the voices in the Lost Isle calling,
In Eressëaut, in Elvenhome that no man can discover,
Where the leaves fall not: land of my people for ever!

And finally, after remembering Tolkien, I remembered one more it’s-about-more-than-just-the-sea poem:

Crossing the Bar
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

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