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John Masefield's famous poem Sea Fever, which is known to almost all of us, is published in this month's Waitrose food magazine, of all places. I think it is so splendid that it is worth publishing as a thread. I am a new boy to this site but I have gained the impression that the last two lines of the poem capture its spirit: -

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 cannot be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the brown 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 whales way where the winds like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Fred
 

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I love Sea Fever, I believe that it is the greatest ever poem of the sea.

I saw the following on the NSTC, Gravesend site. They are asking if anyone knows who wrote it.

Whoever it was gets my congratulations too for a lovely poem which I have to say moves me deeply, see what you think. .

OH FOR THE SMELL OF THE BRINY

I'VE TROD THE DECKS AND SAILED SOME WRECKS
AS I SEARCHED FOR A LIFE OF ACTION.
I SHED NO TEARS, NO WASTED YEARS
I FOUND MUCH SATISFACTION.
I SAILED THE WORLD AS MY LIFE UNFURLED
THROUGH CALM AND STORMY SEAS.
JUST TAKE A LOOK AT MY DISCHARGE BOOK
AND AS YOU TURN THE LEAVES
MY LIFE IS THERE FOR YOU TO SHARE
A SPIRIT FREE TO ROAM
BUT ONE THAT YEARNS, AS THE TILLER TURNS
TO HEAD ONCE MORE FOR HOME.
MY KITBAG'S STORED WITH SUCH A HOARD
OF MEMORIES SO DEAR
THAT COMFORT ME AS I CAN SEE
THE TIME IS DRAWING NEAR
THERE'S ONE LAST TRIP, MY FINAL SHIP
AND AS MY FOOTSTEPS FALTER
I SIGN ON AGAIN, SAIL FREE FROM PAIN
INTO UNCHARTED WATER.

I hope the NSTC, Gravesend dont mind me reproducing it here, and if anyone knows who did write it, please could you let me and of course the NSTC, Gravesend know.

Thanks

Chris.
 

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Poems

They are indeed beautiful words Chris. I wrote this poem just recently, it's probably a bit "schmaltzy" for some but it's about MY merchant navy in the fifties, what some people consider to be the golden years of the merchant navy and I consider it a priviledge to have been there.

A Merchant Seaman
I come from many different places in this great wide world
I go in peaceful business with my country’s flag unfurled
I follow in the footsteps of the earliest of mankind
My pathway is the shipping lane as I leave the shore behind

I’m the luckiest of people, a fact I won’t try to hide
You see I’m a merchant seaman, it’s a tag I wear with pride
They can talk of trade and commerce, how it serves the peoples’ needs
But I know they’ll get nothing till my ship has cleared the leads

It’s not a thing you talk about lest people think your minds begun to slip
But to me there’s nothing like the sight of a sleek and well found ship
It’s something in the DNA and I don’t think that we can lose it
It stirs me to the very core I honestly admit it

If you’ve never been to sea then you’ll never understand
How once we’ve had enough of your shore we want to clear the land
We want to feel the wind and spray, and the salt as it hits our face
We want to be aboard our ship and find another place

A tradesman has his tools, he keeps them sharp and by his side
But we have something we value more, a ship we sail with pride
So keep on mending roads, laying bricks or drive a bus
And leave the joy of seamanship on lovely ships to us

Sometimes in the past, for this great life, there’s been an awful price
And many have paid with willingness, the biggest sacrifice
Defenceless during wartime they faced a cold and watery hell
Innocent victims facing death from the torpedo and the shell

We would never try to compare ourselves to these brave intrepid men
But they passed on a tradition that we follow to the end
It’s an honest life they taught us and a job we do with pride
How could we think of failure when they’re always by our side

We work hard and we play hard and we hold our head up high
Whenever we’re in trouble on our shipmates we rely
We’re well trained and we’re competent but we’re no super men
We’re honest, loyal and proud just to be a merchant seaman

At sea you grow up quickly and learn to be the best you can
They take to sea a boy and deliver home a man
The lessons that you learn stay with you till you die
It’s a way of life and education that money couldn’t buy

You’re most likely going to ask me why I’m not still at that priceless school
And the simple answer is I was a young and stupid fool
Your question “why did I leave the sea” is a fair one I can’t forbid
But the truthful answer is my friend I don’t think I ever did
 

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Nice one Derick, I don't think I left either.

Don't forget that other great one by John Masefield...."Cargoes" - "Dirty British coaster with a salt caked stack..."

John T.
 

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With Nelson and Trafalgar in the news, may I add one of my favourites?
Newbolt's "The Old Superb", which is especially stirring when set to Stanford's music.

The wind was rising easterly, the morning sky was blue,
The Straits before us open'd wide and free;
We look'd towards the Admiral, where high the Peter flew,
And all our hearts were dancing like the sea.

The French are gone to Martinique with four-and-twenty sail,
The "Old Superb" is old and foul and slow;
But the French are gone to Martinique, and Nelson's on the trail,
And where he goes the "Old Superb" must go.

So Westward Ho! for Trinidad, and Eastward Ho! for Spain,
And "Ship Ahoy!" a hundred times a day;
Round the world if need be, and round the world again
With a lame duck lagging, lagging all the way.

The "Old Superb" was barnacled and green as grass below,
Her sticks were only fit for stirring grog;
The pride of all her midshipmen was silent long ago,
And long ago they ceased to heave the log,

Four year out from home she was, and ne'er a week in port,
And nothing save the guns aboard her bright;
But Captain Keats he knew the game, and swore to share the sport,
For he never yet came in too late to fight.

So Westward Ho! for Trinidad, and Eastward Ho! for Spain,
And "Ship Ahoy!" a hundred times a day;
Round the world if need be, and round the world again
With a lame duck lagging, lagging all the way.

"Now up, my lads," the Captain cried, "for sure the case were hard
If longest out were first to fall behind;
Aloft, aloft with studding sails, and lash them to the yard,
For night and day the trades are driving blind.”

So all day long and all day long behind the fleet we crept,
And how we fretted none but Nelson guessed;
But ev'ry nigh the "Old Superb" she sailed when others slept,
Till we ran the French to earth with all the rest.

O 'twas Westward Ho! for Trinidad, and Eastward Ho! for Spain,
And "Ship Ahoy!" a hundred times a day;
Round the world if need be, and round the world again
With a lame duck lagging, lagging all the way.
 

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Oh what lovely stuff Bruce, and I thought I was the only silly old fool who liked a bit of poetry now and then.

I don't know the one you mentioned John but will try to "google" it and look forward to enjoying it.
 

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Hi Derek:
A a youngster I had a record of Songs of the Sea by Peter Dawson, a well known Australian tenor of his day.
Like Kipling, Newbolt's stanzas are now probably considered politically incorrect, dealing as they do with Britain's past maritime might. They probably sound slightly over the top today but they make good stirring escapist reading to those who enjoy tales of the sea.
I found online a site that has the lyrics to The Old Superb, Drake's Drum, Devon, O Devon In The Wind And Rain and Homeward Bound.
http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/n/newbolt/
 

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Bruce Carson said:
With Nelson and Trafalgar in the news, may I add one of my favourites?
Newbolt's "The Old Superb", which is especially stirring when set to Stanford's music.

Don't want to rub it in, but with Paris losing the Olympics to London, why don't they do a re-enactments of the Battle of Trafalgar on the Serpentine? They've been re-hashing the Battle of the River Plate on Peasholm Park lake in Scarborough for about 50 years. Rule Britannia!

John T.
 

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Sea Fever.

Derek,

A lovely poem, congratulations. It says everything that we hold dear about the sea and life upon it. I can think of no better site to post it than this Forum.

Thank you for letting us all read it.

Chris. (Thumb)
 

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considered politically incorrect

Yes Bruce I also didn't want to be politically incorrect and in my poem I said "merchant seaman" where I would have liked to have said "British merchant seaman" because, regardless what anyone says, it was in my day, the finest merchant fleet in the world and the only ones that came close were a couple of Scandinavian countries.

Having said that I also suppose I should have said "merchant sea people" but with all due respect to the ladies on ships nowadays, to me, that just doesn't sound right. I now await the flames.
 

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deckies

daveinnola said:
(Thumb) bunch of deckies lol what about ruyard kiplings engineers dream , and his other marine poems , never mind his barrack room ditties lol dave
Well Dave I must admit I'd never thought about the "them and us" between deckies and engineers but I suppose as you put your hand up it deserves an answer. In the times I'm talking about engineers knew their place in the scheme of things and we used to humanely let them out of their black holes on a regular basis for food and recreation.

Like you I was an unsuccessful politician in a previous life.

I think I'm in trouble now.
 

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Here here Ron, there has never been a "them and us" in my book, in fact I think I have more "them" friends than "us`s", but he who sets standards like that is lost anyway.

Shipmates one and all.

It may be this glorious weather causing it , but I detect too much heat in one or two threads today which we/the site can surely do without. Cool it !
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I had some doubts about starting this thread. After all is the internet an appropriate medium for poetry? I am delighted to see that it has worked, even if we have been raided by the riot police.

Fred
 

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Poetry

Whilst I loved the sea, my favourite poem is one of Robert Service. I will only cover the last bit, having so many years in noisy places this end is good.
Quote. Its a great,big, broad land 'way up yonder,
Its the forests where silence has lease;
Its the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
Its the stillness that fills me with peace.
Jim B
 

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fantastic poems all very apropriate (Applause) brings a tear to the eye even to a rough tug tuggy (Hippy) regarding the black faced ones who came out of their hole for fresh air at the end of their shift there was never a us and them? just US (*))
 

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Great, a poetry slot!
I scribble a bit, here is a chunk of free verse which I keep working on, I'm not happy with it yet, but thats ok.... there might be technical errors even, it was along time ago:

Passage Through Bab el Mandeb; a Memory.

The sea is a mirror of mazarine
Splashed with molten brass.
Ethiopia is low to starboard.
Ahead, like salamanders dancing

In a furnace, islands manifest,
Tormented red crags, shimmering
Anvils of the Sun, massively hammered,
And Sheba rises away to port.

The sky flares imperious, blinding
To the zenith, veiling through azure
Into milk along the horizon
And across the ovens of the Sudan,

Eritrea and Mocha. Volleys
Of molten javelins, flying fish
Pursued by nightmares, break surface
Trailing necklaces of silver.

The heat pulls vapours
Out of long dead mahogany,
Decades of varnish soften
And creep down bulkheads.

The steady turbine throbs
In the halyards and the oiled
Steel deck, it shudders in our flesh,
And murmurs in our bones.

The banded funnel exhales
Black smoke in rippled pulses
That hover then drift away astern.
The phosphor bronze screw

Thuds out the passage of time.
But the crew are ghosts
In history now, as the old ship glides
Through the Gates of Weeping.


(Bab el Mandeb trans. “Gates of Weeping” are the straits at the southern end of the Red Sea across which slaves were carried out of Africa to the markets of Arabia)
 
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