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Analysis Of Sea Fever By John Masefield

Analysis of “Sea Fever” by John MasefieldJohn Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever” is a work of art that brings
beauty to the English language through its use of rhythm, imagery
and many complex figures of speech. The meter in “Sea Fever”
follows the movement of the tall ship in rough water through its
use of iambs and hard hitting spondees. Although written primarily
in iambic meter, the meter in “Sea Fever” varies throughout the
poem. The imagery in “Sea Fever” suggests an adventurous ocean
that appeals to all five senses. Along with an adventurous ocean,
“Sea Fever” also sets a mood of freedom through imagery of
traveling gypsies. Perhaps, the most complex part of this poem is
the use of personification and metaphor. These figures of speech
go beyond the meter and imagery to compare life to a sea voyage and
portray a strong longing for the sea. The two main themes of “Sea
Fever” bring the reader closer to the sea and help the reader
understand why the speaker must return to the sea. “Sea Fever” not
only depicts a strong longing for the sea through its theme, but
also through use of complex figures of speech, imagery, and meter.

“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 meter found
throughout the poem. “Sea Fever” may be categorized as a sea
chantey due to its iambic meter and natural rhythm which gives it a
song like quality. This song like quality is created through the
use of iambic meter and alliteration. For example, lines three
and ten contain the repeated consonant sound of the letter “w”.

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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. To further support the theory of the waves
slapping against the bow, “The wheels kick” suggests that the
tall ship is traversing very storm seas. Through the combining of
iambic and spondaic meter, “Sea Fever” not only gains a magnificent
rhythm, but gives clues into the location and movement of the tall

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 vivid descriptions
and strong images of the sea, Masefield helps the reader to
understand why the speaker must return to the sea.

Through the use of complex figures of speech, “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”. In addition to personification, Masefield uses
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. The similes and metaphors seen in “Sea Fever” are
easily recognized, but their meanings and implications may be
viewed as anything but shallow or irrelevant to the poetic style of
Masefield. 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 and the imagery.

From the intensity of the speakers feelings, two themes are
created that complement each other. First, a theme of longing for
freedom and an adventurous ocean is developed. Although not the
only theme, it is very recognizable and easily found after the
initial reading of the poem. For example, 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” uses meter, imagery, and figures of
speech so effectively that the reader is brought to the sea. The
iambic and spondaic meter along with alliteration give “Sea Fever”
a natural rhythm that coincides with the movement of the sea. The
refrain “I must go down to the seas again” is one of the many
poetic devices used to show the strong longing the speaker has for
the sea. Equally important, the dynamic imagery is seen
practically on each line throughout the poem. The images in “Sea
Fever” are strengthened through the use of figurative language.

Masefield uses personification and similes to add vivid details of
the wind, ship and sea. Perhaps, the most puzzling element of “Sea
Fever” is the implied metaphors. Furthermore, the simple themes in
“Sea Fever”, consist of the longing the speaker has for the sea and
the comparison of life to a sea voyage. In conclusion, “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.


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