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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Epilogue

(John Masefield, poet laureate, 1930-1967)

John Masefield (1878-1967) was appointed by George V and served thirty-seven years; only Tennyson held the post longer.

To many, Masefield was known best for his nautical verses, poems like “Cargoes” and “Sea-Fever,” with its famous first line, “I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky.” Surprisingly, he had spent only a few years as a youth in the merchant marine, deserting ship because of his constant seasickness.

Masefield went on to write a great variety of poems, including narratives from mythology, and plays and popular children’s novels.


I have seen flowers come in stony places
And kind things done by men with ugly faces,
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races,
So I trust, too.


Elizabeth said...

As a kid, I always liked this poem by Masefield, especially the sound of it. But I had questions: Who or what was Quinquireme of Nineveh? Where is Ophir? And what is a gold moidore?

Who cares—it’s still great fun to read aloud.


Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

dylan said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! That is a wonderful poem. God bless that British coaster!

The old gentleman... said...

Blimey! I just bought Masefield's Collected Poems for $4, thanks to the annual Rotary book sale. In his introduction he tells us that, if nothing else, the poetry of the next generation, even if it becomes more "poetic," will benefit from the vitality of poets such as...Masefield!