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John Masefield’s “Sea Fever” Essay, Research Paper

John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever” is a work of art that brings beauty to the English language through its use of storng technical structure and a very strong well developed theme. “Sea Fever” employs meter, imagery, and figurative language to help strengthen the themes and help the reader gain an understanding of the speaker’s desire to return to the sea.

From the intensity of the speakers feelings, literal and figurative themes are created that complement each other. The literal theme of the poem is the speaker’s longing for freedom and an adventurous ocean. This yearning for the sea can easily be seen in the refrain “I must go down to the seas again”. The title “Sea Fever”, shows the speakers hunger for an adventurous and free life. This hunger for life is also seen through references to the freedom of a sea gull and a whale in line ten. Equally important, Masefield uses strong metaphors to create a theme of life resembling a sea voyage. In line twelve, the speakers asks for a “quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over”. The speaker is implying that life is a long sea journey and is requesting a peaceful afterlife. These two themes work together to convey the speakers passionate feelings for the sea and help the reader to further understand the sea’s importance to the speaker.

“Sea Fever” is an excellent example of varied meter which follows the actions of a tall ship through high seas and strong wind. Lines one and two contain the common iambic pentameter found throughout the poem with a short unstressed syllable followed by a long stressed syllable. In line three, the meter becomes spondaic through the use of strongly stressed syllables. These spondees suggest the repeated slapping of waves against the bow of the ship. As a result, John Masefield creates an image of powerful ocean swells. In addition to the meter suggesting the repeated slap of the waves, “the wheel’s kick” is a reference to the ship’s steering wheel spinning out of control. The iambic and spondaic meter along with alliteration give “Sea Fever” a natural rhythm that coincides with the movement of the sea.

Perhaps, the most striking characteristic of “Sea Fever” is the remarkable imagery seen on each line throughout the poem. Images of a “gray mist” and a “gray dawn breaking” bring the poem to life by appealing to the senses. The powerful images bring the reader to the ocean and help the reader understand the strong longing the speaker has for the sea. Through the use of descriptive adjectives, the effectiveness of Masefield’s imagery is increased. Specifically, words such as “whetted” and “flung” help create a realistic picture of the sea. Images of a “wild call” and a “clear call that may not be denied” describe a longing that is shared between the speaker and the ocean. Finally, images of a “lonely sea” and a “vagrant gypsy life” bring a mood of freedom and independence to the poem..

Through the use of complex figurative language, “Sea Fever” is transformed from an ordinary poem to a masterpiece. Masefield adds figures of speech such as, personification, to bring detailed descriptions of the ship and sea to the reader. In line four, the sea is personified when the water’s surface is referred to as the “sea’s face”. There are also several similes and metaphors that increase the effectiveness of the already strong imagery. The simile “the winds like a whetted knife”, appeals to the senses and helps the reader feel the cold wind blowing. One example of a metaphor is in line nine when the speaker compares “the vagrant gypsy life” to the ocean. “Sea Fever” is dominated by implied metaphors comparing the speakers life to the sea. For example, the word “trick” in line ten implies that the speaker’s life has been like a sea voyage. The complex metaphors increase the emotional tone of “Sea Fever” and help the reader relate to the speaker’s passion for the sea. Through the use of figures of speech such as personification, simile and metaphor, the poem is enhanced by further development of the theme.


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