Running with a Fair Wind

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 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.

John Masefield

(POETRY WARNING – There’s a whole lot of poetry in here)

It is not commonly known I think that I used to have a boat. Not a big one, just a little dinghy and only when I was a kid, but I used to have an Optimist. I like sailing and I like boats, I am sorely rusty now of course, I think that the last time I was actually on water was about ten years ago. I like water. I don’t think I can really get across how much I like water.

“…Yet still, even more now, my spirit within me
Drives me seaward to sail the deep,
To ride the long swell of the salt sea waves.
Never a day but my heart’s desire
Would launch me forth on the long sea path…”

I was brought up, to an extent on Swallows and Amazons, a little my Dad read to me, but mostly he and I would watch the TV adaptation. This being a very long time ago either before or just after The Princess was born. I read Coral Island, Treasure Island, The Riddle of The Sands and crewed on his Miracle much to his delight and then I got to get out on the lake (an old filled in quarry really) in my little Oppy – humouressly (to me at least) called ‘The Pessimist’.

Perhaps it’s the solitude of being alone on a lake that I like.

“How calm! How still! The only sound the dripping of the oar suspended.”

William Wordsworth

After all it is a solitary bleakness that draws me into landscapes. Maybe it’s the lack of other human contact, there is no one else I am responsible for or to (though crewing is ok as well, sometimes). Perhaps I just appreciated the silence as a kid.

In anycase I am in an increasingly nautical (if nautical can be said to apply to all craft on all waters) frame of mind. Love, life, it’s all watery, all uncontrollable blasts of waves that hit you from the side and draw you off into unforseen currents and you sail and navigate as best you can, following the dreamy state of dose, the beauty of briefly glimpsed lips, that is the day spent doing “nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” (Kenneth Grahame)

I have seen dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills
Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain:
I have seen the lady April bringing the daffodils,
Bringing the springing grass and the soft warm April rain.

I have heard the song of the blossoms and the old chant of the sea,
And seen strange lands from under the arched white sails of ships;
But the loveliest thing of beauty God ever has shown to me,
Are her voice, and her hair, and eyes, and the dear red curve of her lips.

John Masefield

I’m sailing on towards my dreams, that’s my heading, and I’m going to get there too.

“Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made, for somewhere deep in their oaken hearts the soul of a song is laid.”

Robert N. Rose

I can feel the winds blowing again, as if I spent this time in a port trying to be a land-lubber and cutting myself for every failing. Can’t deny it, but I’m a sailor, a pirate, an amazon heading into the lake with Nancy and Peggy, heading onto the waters past the buoy never quite intending to go to sea but urged on by the winds and urged on and urged on.

In the harbor, in the island, in the Spanish Seas,
Are the tiny white houses and the orange trees,
And day-long, night-long, the cool and pleasant breeze
Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.

There is the red wine, the nutty Spanish ale,
The shuffle of the dancers, the old salt’s tale,
The squeaking fiddle, and the soughing in the sail
Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.

And o’ nights there’s fire-flies and the yellow moon,
And in the ghostly palm-trees the sleepy tune
Of the quiet voice calling me, the long low croon
Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.

John Masefield

This is a poetic way of saying I set my course, I’ve started on my way to my final port. Of course I’ve always been on my way but I’m really going for it today and only a little while until I finish this job and back to full time writing.

“For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.”

Richard Bode

Today then, I swam, signed up for a refresher induction at the sports centre, signed up for two language classes (Spanish with FJ in preparation for Peru and French because I need to spruce my neglected French up somewhat) and have plans which will take me to further ports than this.

Let no religious rite be done or read
In any place for me when I am dead,
But burn my body into ash, and scatter
The ash in secret into running water,
Or on the windy down, and let none see;
And then thank God that there

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