Poets

John Masefield

John Masefield Biography

“The Days That Makes Us Happy Makes Us Wise”

– John Masefield

John Masefield Short Biography

   John Masefield, widely known as the “sea poet”, sailed in the literary ocean as one of the most distinguished poet of all time. During his prominent days, few only knew as it appears nowadays, that he is not just a poet but also a dramatist, historian, novelist, and writer of short stories. He sailed the sea for many years and from those islands and costal community he stored so many footprints from the sand that later helped him become one of most respected poet of all time.

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Early Life

    John Masefield was born in Ledbury, Herefordshire, on June 1, 1878. He grew up in his aunt’s house with other siblings after both mother and father died when he is still a young innocent boy. Young John doesn’t like school that much, he rather want to roam around and hike at nearby woods. His adventurous nature led him to become a sailor at the age of fourteen, to a merchant ship.

    Although he lacked interest in studying indoors, John still love to read and one in particular that caught his attention are the poems of Sir Walter Scott. He began reading Scott’s poem at the age of ten and also developed his interest at Percy’s Reliques of Ancient Poetry. When he began his life as a sailor, he reads Macauly’s Lays of Ancient Rome.

His Influence

   These literary greats and their masterpieces helped him to cultivate his love in writing and began writing his own version of their poems. After spending more than two years at the sea, John realized he needed to step out of the ship and began his writing journey off the shore. So, in April of 1895, he landed at New York bay with only five dollars in his pocket and an intense yearning for a literary career.

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   In New York, he worked in a carpet factory while spending his free time a nearby book shop reading works of Chaucer. Remembering those times John said, “I did not begin to read poetry with passion and system until 1896. I was living then in Yonkers, New York (at 8 Maple Street). Chaucer was the poet, and the Parliament of Fowls the poem of my conversion. I read the Parliament all through one Sunday afternoon, with the feeling that I had been kept out of my inheritance and had suddenly entered upon it, and had found it a new world of wonder and delight. I had never realized, until then, what poetry could be. After that Sunday afternoon I read many poets (Chaucer, Keats, Shelley, Milton, and Shakespeare, more than others) and wrote many imitations of them. About a year later, when I was living in London, I wrote two or three of the verses now printed in SALT WATER BALLADS”

  SALT WATER BALLADS was published in 1902 in England after his years of vigorous apprenticeship at London literary halls. Salt Water Ballads received numerous applauds from the keen eye of public and from leading writers of his era, including William Butler Yeats. The Book awarded him the recognition he yearned for years. A year after, John Masefield released another book followed by another until he published his first novel in 1908. That novel entitled “Captain Margaret” was widely famous and can easily be distinguished because of its poetic tone that was sustained throughout the book.

His writing prowess appointed him a Poet Laureate from 1930 until 1967. He also received a Shakespeare Prize in 1938. John Masefield find a match to his literary mind when he met Constance de la Cherois-Crommelin, a highly educated woman. They married in 1903 and had two children, a son and a daughter.

John Masefield with his daughter Judith

John Masefield Poems

"Sea Fever"

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.
"Beauty"

I have seen dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills
Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain:
I have seen the lady April bringing the daffodils,
Bringing the springing grass and the soft warm April rain.

I have heard the song of the blossoms and the old chant of the sea,
And seen strange lands from under the arched white sails of ships;
But the loveliest thing of beauty God ever has shown to me,
Are her voice, and her hair, and eyes, and the dear red curve of her lips.
"A Wanderer's Song"

A wind's  in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels,
I am tired of brick and stone and rumbling wagon-wheels;
I hunger for the sea's edge, the limit of the land,
Where the wild old Atlantic is shouting on the sand.

Oh I'll be going, leaving the noises of the street,
To where a lifting foresail-foot is yanking at the sheet;
To a windy, tossing anchorage where yawls and ketches ride,
Oh I'll be going, going, until I meet the tide.

And first I'll hear the sea-wind, the mewing of the gulls,
The clucking, sucking of the sea about the rusty hulls,
The songs at the capstan at the hooker warping out,
And then the heart of me'll know I'm there or thereabout.

Oh I am sick of brick and stone, the heart of me is sick,
For windy green, unquiet sea, the realm of Moby Dick;
And I'll be going, going, from the roaring of the wheels,
For a wind's in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels.
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