inspired by John Masefield’s “Sea-Fever” (1902)

I will go down to the bush again, where the days hang crisp and clear,
And cicadas hum their sonorous song from places far and near;
Where cockatoos flash across the sky, screeching all the while,
And the creek below makes a silver show as it slithers past in style.

I will go down to the bush again, where the campfire burns at night,
And the stars compete with the fire’s heat to decide who casts more light;
And the evening breeze bears the scent of leaves, as sweet as love’s intent,
As it lulls to sleep with a charm complete, when the talk of day is spent.

I will go down to the bush again, whenever I feel the need;
For the call of the bush is a strong call, and a call that the heart must heed.
And while I’m there I’ll quite forget my cares, and the flight of time;
Until, with a sense of deep regret, to the world above I climb.

 

 

David Watt is a writer from Canberra, the “Bush Capital” of Australia. He is Winner of the 2018 Friends of Falun Gong Poetry Competition. He has contributed regularly to Collections of Poetry and Prose by Robin Barratt. When not working for IP (Intellectual Property) Australia, he finds time to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of traditional rhyming poetry.


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29 Responses

  1. T. M. Moore

    Thanks for this, David. You remind us that we are made to connect with creation, to enjoy its beauty and ponder its mysteries. And you captured the spirit of Masefield’s verse so well. I especially enjoyed the idea of the stars competing with the campfire to see which could cast the most light. The call of creation, and the glory it conceals, is a strong call, indeed, and you have reminded and enticed us to heed it.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you T.M. Our connection with creation, and the beauty of life around us is precisely what I have tried to express. I am so glad you like the stars competing with the fire’s heat. That particular idea springs from my recollection of an ideal night spent by the campfire.

      Reply
    • David Watt

      Thanks Amy. I like to incorporate some internal rhymes, where they suit the form. It seems too long since we read some of your work on the SCP site.
      Do you have a piece in the offing?

      Reply
      • Amy Foreman

        Thank you for the compliment, David! It’s been a hectic, busy season of life, and I simply haven’t had the chance to write anything new lately. I hope the coming months will slow down enough that I can enjoy some writing time!

    • David Watt

      Thank you Harry. I think that my love of the bush assisted greatly in writing this piece.

      Reply
  2. C.B. Anderson

    David, very smooth, almost slick, with the appropriately-placed internal rhymes being the kicker. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll head off into the bush right now,… or maybe into the Bushmill’s. Is it just me, or do the trees in the illustration not look a lot like eucalyptus trees? I think that this piece is the best, by far, that you have placed here.

    Reply
  3. C.B. Anderson

    I should add, David, that this poem raises the hackles quite as well as “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by Yeats has ever done. Turning outward brings us inward, and looking inward shows us what’s true of the outward. Carry on.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      C.B., I value your opinion, as I know you maintain high standards, and comment as you see it. I think that this poem came together in a more satisfying way than any of my previous pieces. Although results may not always meet aspirations, I can but try to replicate this feeling.
      In the beautiful illustration chosen by Evan, the central tree appears to be a majestic river red gum.
      Any comparison to Yeats “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is much appreciated.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        David, I think Eucalyptus and Sweet Gum for all practical purposes, are synonyms.

  4. James A. Tweedie

    David,

    I was going to add an appreciative comment as well, but T.M. and C. B. already took everything I was going to say and said it better than I would have done. Thanks for the verse..

    Reply
  5. David Watt

    Yes C.B., any of the gum trees, and also quite a few shrubs, are certainly in the Eucalyptus genus. There is one particular Eucalyptus known as a ‘Sugar Gum’ or ‘Sweet Gum’. The botanic name is Eucalyptus cladocalyx.

    Reply
  6. Walibee Scrude

    I remember reading once, when the sea-faring English voted for their favourite sea poems, “Sea Fever” was at the top. I see as well, on the Internet, Oliver Terle thought it one of the ten best sea-faring, English poems. It came out of his “Sea Ballads” of 1902. It was the Masefield poem I liked best, so it is with some satisfaction to see the Australian poet Mr. Watt taking its cadences to the bush. That is something that makes perfect sense when one reads “The Call of the Bush”, where Mr. Watt uses even some of Masefield’s lively diction. I always felt that Masefield’s rollicking heptameters of iambs, spondees and anapests seemed like the rocking of a craft at sea.

    Mr. Anderson brings up an interesting comparison, which I had not made before to a poem I once also found as refreshing, Yeats’ “Lake Isle of Innisfree”. Though there are many differences in the two compositions, there are also some interesting similarities. It makes me wonder if Masefield was aware of the Yeats’ poem. Both of these poems, and Mr. Watts’ “The Call of the Bush”, come out of the ballad tradition, which I know Mr.Watt, partly from an Australian point of view, previously said he appreciated; and I think his composition is worthy of publication in an Australian outlet, if it has not already there been published.

    I did find the phrase “to the world above I will climb” surprising. It was the word “above” I didn’t expect, leaving the ending of his poem with an uneasy feel (just as Masefield himself had done). Having just this last week written a tennos on cockatoos, and their destructive powers, I was happy to see the word “screeching” in reference to them; but I have to admit that I rarely think of “cicadas hum[ming] their sonorous song.” Perhaps I could appreciate them more if they did not inhabit my back yard. The cicadas plague me; and I have used them as such in a half dozen haiku this summer, as they are also frequently used in Japanese haiku writing. Still, I must admit that gave a bit of a twinge when I read L2. Nevertheless, despite all that, I do like the use of cicadas naturally in English literature, as Mr. Watt has done.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Hello Bruce, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed comments.

      I would be interested to read your recently composed tennos concerning the destructive power of cockatoos. The sulphur-crested cockatoos here in Canberra are real characters, and frequently descend on trees for a spot of enthusiast pruning.

      Cicadas undoubtedly sound more appealing in an expansive bush setting than from within the confines of a backyard.

      I would be surprised if John Masefield wasn’t aware of Yeats’ “Lake Isle of Innisfree” (published in 1890), at the time of writing “Sea-Fever” some twelve years later. As you point out, there are similarities between the two poems.

      Reply
  7. James Sale

    A lovely poem David, and good to see such a successful emulation of a rather haunting original. That is difficult to do and you have done it very well indeed.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you James. The rollicking rhythms of “Sea-Fever” are a great inspiration.

      Reply
  8. E. Birdcaws Eule

    Whereas Wallace Stevens, in his poem “Sunday Morning” with its central theme of sensuality v. Christian spirituality, looks brightly upon the cockatoo, I thought to counter that with a dose of reality.

    The Silver-Crested Cockatoos
    by E. Birdcaws Eule
    “the green freedom of a cockatoo”
    —Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”

    The silver-crested cockatoos on telephonic lines,
    swing back and forth, and sometimes flip around and round two times.
    They chew on outdoor furniture, and door and window frames,
    attacking anything in site that fits within their aims,
    like solar water-heaters, television antennae,
    no satellite dish is protected from their vileness.
    They’ll strip the silicon sealant from plate-glass window panes,
    attacking even the electric cabling tarpaulins.
    They are destructive creatures, and their squawk is loud and irks.
    No Sunday morning in Connecticut can catch these jerks.

    E. Birdcaws Eule is a poet of birds. According to Birdee Euclaws, “Cockatoos like tearing up things: newspapers, poetry books, and the wooden tables they lie on.”

    Reply

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