Posted by: Janet | February 26, 2008

Naval History

As of about a year ago, I seem to be going through a phase of reading historical fiction, mainly naval historical fiction.  This is a phase I dip in and out of over the years.  After several rather muted attempts at reading the Patrick O’Brian Master and Commander series, I finally got going on them and then you could hardly stop me as I read them one after another, completing the series with no. 20.  A feeling of accomplishment.  What joy now to see one or more of the series for sale and I can pass them by – finished! 

But the compulsion to read more about this period in history and also to read any and every book that is sea oriented has not left me.  One of the “unreads” that has been languishing on my shelves is The Lonely Sea and the Sky by Francis Chichester.  I thought this book was going to be about his solo voyage around the world for which he was knighted in 1967.   Not the case – this book is about his earlier life when he made many solo flights and then later turned to sailing.  The book is no longer languishing among my “unreads”.  I have just finished reading it and now feel compelled to offer the beautiful John Masefield poem Sea Fever, as printed at the beginning of the Chichester book.  This is a poem we had to memorize as part of our English course in high school, over 50 years ago.

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 sails 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 gipsy 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.

John Masefield (1878-1967)

English Poet Laureate 1930-1967

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