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Sea-Change -- John Masefield

(Poem #758) Sea-Change
 "Goneys an' gullies an' all o' the birds o' the sea
    They ain't no birds, not really", said Billy the Dane.
 "Not mollies, nor gullies, nor goneys at all", said he,
    "But simply the sperrits of mariners livin' again.

 "Them birds goin' fishin' is nothin' but the souls o' the drowned,
    Souls o' the drowned, an' the kicked as are never no more
 An' that there haughty old albatross cruisin' around,
    Belike he's Admiral Nelson or Admiral Noah.

 "An' merry's the life they are living. They settle and dip,
    They fishes, they never stands watches, they waggle their wings;
 When a ship comes by, they fly to look at the ship
    To see how the nowaday mariners manages things.

 "When freezing aloft in a snorter I tell you I wish --
    (Though maybe it ain't like a Christian) -- I wish I could be
 A haughty old copper-bound albatross dipping for fish
    And coming the proud over all o' the birds o' the sea."
-- John Masefield
Question: Should narrowness of theme be held against a poet?
Answer: Not when the theme is handled as magnificently as in Masefield's
poems of the sea.

John Masefield's ballads are astonishingly vivid. Read them, and you can
feel the salt spray in your face, taste the brine in your mouth, hear the
cawing of the gulls, the rip and crash of the storm, the stillness of the
morning after... Masefield may have written other kinds of verse (most
especially, during his lengthy tenure as Poet Laureate), but it's surely
poems like "Sea-Change" that he'll be remembered for. And rightly so.


[Minstrels Links]

The title of today's poem is from The Tempest, wherein Ariel expresses a
similar conceit. You can read the entire exquisite passage at poem #16

Other excerpts from Shakespeare's last play to have featured on the
Minstrels include "Our revels now are ended", Poem #126, and "Admired
Miranda", Poem #413.

Eliot's Wasteland makes several references to The Tempest; see poem #354

And finally, other Masefield poems:
"Sea Fever", Poem #27
"Cargoes", Poem #74
"Trade Winds", Poem #555
"Beauty", Poem #695
"Night is on the Downland", Poem #702

6 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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