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.
I do love the original, but this poem has been much parodied. Here are two examples: First, Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)
I must go down to the seas again, where the billows romp and reel,
So all I ask is a large ship that rides on an even keel,
And a mild breeze and a broad deck with a slight list to leeward,
And a clean chair in a snug nook and a nice, kind steward.
I must go down to the seas again, the sport of wind and tide,
As the grey wave and the green wave play leapfrog over the side.
And all I ask is a glassy calm with a bone-dry scupper,
A good book and a warm rug and a light, plain supper.
I must go down to the seas again, though there I’m a total loss,
And can’t say which is worst: the pitch, the plunge, the roll, the toss.
But all I ask is a safe retreat in a bar well tended,
And a soft berth and a smooth course till the long trip’s ended.
Spike Milligan 1918-2002
I must go down to the sea again,
to the lonely sea and the sky;
I left my shoes and socks there –
I wonder if they’re dry?
(Incidentally, the items of clothing seem to vary according to the version you find so that it is now difficult to tell which is the original. ‘I left my vest and pants there’ is also popular!)