In the poem "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, what does the speaker ask for?

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The speaker's deep desire, as the title of the poem suggests, is to go back to sailing the seas in a boat. The sea is in his blood: he has a fever for it.

The speaker says he wants a tall ship. Unlike others who might want a ship to kill a whale (like Captain Ahab), to find a treasure, to explore new places, to make a fortune, or to find a new home to settle in, the speaker simply wants to be on the sea for the sake of being there. He longs for the sea breezes, the gray mists, the wind, the white clouds, and the sound of the seagulls crying. He yearns for this freeing environment, where he can live the "vagrant gypsy life" untethered from the shore.

To the speaker, the seafaring life is a simple life where one can find happiness in the natural world, in telling stories with a friend (a "fellow rover"), or in sleeping and dreaming sweetly.

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Literally speaking, the speaker asks for a number of things in this poem.  He asks for a tall ship and a star to steer by.  He asks for a merry yarn and a good sleep after his long trick.  He asks for many other things in between.  So the real issue is to think about what this means in a figurative sense.

Figuratively, I would argue that the speaker is asking for freedom and excitement.  Although he feels compelled to go to sea, his words about the sea are full of the language of freedom.  He wants to hear the sails cracking and the wind driving him along.  He wants to be like the gulls and the whales.  These requests convey to me an image of freedom and of doing things that are thrilling.  He is not chained to a desk in a closed room or to any other sort of mundane thing on the land.  Instead, he is out there on the ocean, pitting himself against the elements.

Figuratively, then, the speaker is asking for a fulfilling life.  One in which he is free to do what he wants and to challenge himself.  Afterwards, he wants a good rest, but while he is alive, he wants to live life to its fullest.


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