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Salt-Water Ballads (1902)
- I must 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.
- This is the original version of 1902. In later versions, the author inserted the word 'go' ("I must go down to the seas again"). Source: https://poemanalysis.com/sea-fever-john-masefield-poem-analysis/
- The later version is the wording used in the song setting by John Ireland..
- And in the ghostly palm-trees the sleepy tune
Of the quiet voice calling me, the long low croon
Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.
- Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
"The Golden City of St. Mary"
Out beyond the sunset, could I but find the way,
Is a sleepy blue laguna which widens to a bay,
And there's the Blessed City -- so the sailors say --
The Golden City of St. Mary.
"The West Wind"
- It's a warm wind, the west wind, full of birds' cries;
I never hear the west wind but tears are in my eyes.
For it comes from the west lands, the old brown hills,
And April's in the west wind, and daffodils.
- Will you not come home, brother? you have been long away,
It's April, and blossom time, and white is the spray;
And bright is the sun, brother, and warm is the rain, -
Will you not come home, brother, home to us again?
Ballads and Poems (1910)
- The moon came white and ghostly as we laid the treasure down,
There was gear there’d make a beggarman as rich as Lima Town,
Copper charms and silver trinkets from the chests of Spanish crews,
Gold doubloons and double moidores, louis d’ors and portagues
"Captain Stratton's Fancy"
- Oh some are fond of Spanish wine, and some are fond of French,
And some’ll swallow tay and stuff fit only for a wench;
But I’m for right Jamaica till I roll beneath the bench,
Says the old bold mate of Henry Morgan.
- In the dark womb where I began
My mother's life made me a man.
Through all the months of human birth
Her beauty fed my common earth.
I cannot see, nor breathe, nor stir,
But through the death of some of her.
- What have I done, or tried, or said
In thanks to that dear woman dead?
Men triumph over women still,
Men trample women's rights at will,
And man's lust roves the world untamed.
* * * *
O grave, keep shut lest I be shamed.
The Everlasting Mercy (1919)
- From '41 to '51
I was my folk's contrary son;
I bit my father's hand right through
And broke my mother's heart in two.
- Opening lines
- My blood did leap, my flesh did revel,
Saul Kane was tokened to the devil.
King Cole and Other Poems (1926)
- I, who am dead, have ways of knowing
Of the crop of death that the quick are sowing.
I, who was Pompey, cry it aloud
From the dark of death, from the wind blowing.
I, who was Pompey, once was proud,
Now I lie in the sand without a shroud;
I cry to Caesar out of my pain,
"Caesar beware, your death is vowed."
- Then watchers of the life of man will know
How spirits quickened in this ended reign,
Till what was centuries stagnant 'gan to flow
And what was centuries fettered moved again;
How with this Ruler entered into rest
The country's very self from slumber stirred,
To charity as guide and hope as guest
And ventured to a nobler marching word.
- Quoted in Arthur Groom, Edward The Eighth: Our King (1936). Masefield was Poet Laureate at the time.
"Where does the uttered Music go?" (1946)
- What is this creature, Music, save the Art,
The Rhythm that the planets journey by?
The living Sun-Ray entering the heart,
Touching the Life with that which cannot die?
Quotes about John Masefield
- I loved Swinburne and Masefield and all the other great sea poets.
- Rachel Carson 1954 speech included in Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1998)
- Life Loves/to change, wrote poet John Masefield,/in the cobbled town of Ledbury, Herefordshire,/Elizabeth Barrett Browning's town too./.../I felt drunk on general coziness.../thinking of Elizabeth,/whose "father never spoke to her again," once she/had a child (what was his problem?),/and Masefield, who suffered intense seasickness/yet wrote about going down to the sea/as if it were his favorite act/.../Life loves to change-but some of us want to/stay.
- Naomi Shihab Nye Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners (2018)