Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Poetry Corner: John Masefield

Sailing poetry, written by a sailor

I was surprised to find, when I looked up this poem, that Masefield lived well into the 20th century, so much of his work wouldn’t really count as Victorian in the literal sense. However, his themes and style do keep to the romantic era. He was the son of a lawyer with a well-ordered life ahead of him, but he ran off to sea on a merchantman. His verse is both realistic and moving; you can hear the ship crashing through the waves in the rhythm of his words, and the splashing of the water in the flowing consonants. There’s also a wisp of nostalgia here and there, as steam power is replacing the sail as the means to get from one place to another.

Interestingly, Masefield died in 1967, about the time Captain Kirk quoted from his poetry in an episode of Star Trek. I don’t know whether that quote was inserted as a tribute upon Masefield’s death, or just a coincidence.

Sea Fever

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 gray 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.


Blogger Tillerman said...

"All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by" is also the quotation on the dedication plaque of the USS Defiant.

As I'm sure you know, the USS Defiant became trapped in a spatial interphase in 2268 and didn't re-emerge until 2379. She subsequently saw service in the battle against the Tholians and at last report was docked in Deep Space 12.

What would Masefield have made of all this, I wonder?

Thu Jan 05, 09:48:00 AM MST  
Blogger Pat said...

Under sail, the only spatial interphase you'll get trapped in is when you've spliced too much mainbrace. That's what those navy guys get for relying too much on them new-fangled infernal steam engines and other mechanical rubbish. And the closest thing to a Tholian Masefeld ever would have heard of would have been a thole pin, so belay all those dilithium dreams and hoist sail to breast the briny surge.

Fri Jan 06, 02:54:00 PM MST  

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