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.
I first encountered this poem in an anthology I read for English class in High School. I really loved the sea at the time, especially because I rarely got to go down to the sea, being a resident of a land-locked state.
This is a great poem to memorize; the words flow together and the initial memorization only took me a few days. I spent the rest of the month making sure it was stuck fast in my head. The hardest part was figuring out the best way to get by the word “spume” which, depending on the audience might cause giggles. The word sounds vaguely naughty–one can imagine it being utilized in a porn title–and means foam, froth or scum.
While reciting the poem, I was struck that few people I know have such a need to “go down to” their job. Who would write such a poem about coding, or filling prescriptions or being a secretary at a charter school?