These are the top twenty (20) greatest poems of John Masefield.
From Laugh And Be Merry to Sea Change.
If you want to know his greatest poems of all time, then this poetry collection is for you.
Laugh And Be Merry
Laugh and be merry, remember, better the world with a song,
Better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong.
Laugh, for the time is brief, a thread the length of a span.
Laugh and be proud to belong to the old proud pageant of man.
Laugh and be merry: remember, in olden time.
God made Heaven and Earth for joy He took in a rhyme,
Made them, and filled them full with the strong red wine of
The splendid joy of the stars: the joy of the earth.
So we must laugh and drink from the deep blue cup of the sky,
Join the jubilant song of the great stars sweeping by,
Laugh, and battle, and work, and drink of the wine outpoured
In the dear green earth, the sign of the joy of the Lord.
Laugh and be merry together, like brothers akin,
Guesting awhile in the rooms of a beautiful inn,
Glad till the dancing stops, and the lilt of the music ends.
Laugh till the game is played; and be you merry, my friends.
A Ballad Of John Silver
We were schooner-rigged and rakish, with a long and lissome hull,
And we flew the pretty colours of the cross-bones and the skull;
We’d a big black Jolly Roger flapping grimly at the fore,
And we sailed the Spanish Water in the happy days of yore.
We’d a long brass gun amidships, like a well-conducted ship,
We had each a brace of pistols and a cutlass at the hip;
It’s a point which tells against us, and a fact to be deplored,
But we chased the goodly merchant-men and laid their ships aboard.
Then the dead men fouled the scuppers and the wounded filled the chains,
And the paint-work all was spatter-dashed with other people’s brains,
She was boarded, she was looted, she was scuttled till she sank,
And the pale survivors left us by the medium of the plank.
O! then it was (while standing by the taffrail on the poop)
We could hear the drowning folk lament the absent chicken-coop;
Then, having washed the blood away, we’d little else to do
Than to dance a quiet hornpipe as the old salts taught us to.
O! the fiddle on the fo’c’s’le, and the slapping naked soles,
And the genial “Down the middle, Jake, and curtsey when she rolls!”
With the silver seas around us and the pale moon overhead,
And the look-out not a-looking and his pipe-bowl glowing red.
Ah! the pig-tailed, quidding pirates and the pretty pranks we played,
All have since been put a stop-to by the naughty Board of Trade;
The schooners and the merry crews are laid away to rest,
A little south the sunset in the Islands of the Blest.
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.
I had 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,
Ao I trust, too.
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’l 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,John Masefield
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.
The West Wind
It’s a warm wind, the west wind, full of birds’ cries;
I never hear the west wind but tears are in my eyes.
For it comes from the west lands, the old brown hills.
And April’s in the west wind, and daffodils.
It’s a fine land, the west land, for hearts as tired as mine,
Apple orchards blossom there, and the air’s like wine.
There is cool green grass there, where men may lie at rest,
And the thrushes are in song there, fluting from the nest.
“Will ye not come home brother? ye have been long away,
It’s April, and blossom time, and white is the may;
And bright is the sun brother, and warm is the rain,
Will ye not come home, brother, home to us again?
“The young corn is green, brother, where the rabbits run.
It’s blue sky, and white clouds, and warm rain and sun.
It’s song to a man’s soul, brother, fire to a man’s brain,
To hear the wild bees and see the merry spring again.
“Larks are singing in the west, brother, above the green wheat,
So will ye not come home, brother, and rest your tired feet?
I’ve a balm for bruised hearts, brother, sleep for aching eyes,”
Says the warm wind, the west wind, full of birds’ cries.
It’s the white road westwards is the road I must tread
To the green grass, the cool grass, and rest for heart and head,
To the violets, and the warm hearts, and the thrushes’ song,
In the fine land, the west land, the land where I belong.
All day they loitered by the resting ships,
Telling their beauties over, taking stock;
At night the verdict left my messmate’s lips,
“The Wanderer is the finest ship in dock.”
I had not seen her, but a friend, since drowned,
Drew her, with painted ports, low, lovely, lean,
Saying, “The Wanderer, clipper, outward bound,
The loveliest ship my eyes have ever seen
“Perhaps to-morrow you will see her sail.
She sails at sunrise”: but the morrow showed
No Wanderer setting forth for me to hail;
Far down the stream men pointed where she rode,
Rode the great trackway to the sea, dim, dim,
Already gone before the stars were gone.
I saw her at the sea-line’s smoky rim
Grow swiftly vaguer as they towed her on.
Soon even her masts were hidden in the haze
Beyond the city; she was on her course
To trample billows for a hundred days;
That afternoon the northerner gathered force,
Blowing a small snow from a point of east.
“Oh, fair for her,” we said, “to take her south.”
And in our spirits, as the wind increased,
We saw her there, beyond the river mouth,
Setting her side-lights in the wildering dark,
To glint upon mad water, while the gale
Roared like a battle, snapping like a shark,
And drunken seamen struggled with the sail.
While with sick hearts her mates put out of mind
Their little children, left astern, ashore,
And the gale’s gathering made the darkness’ blind,
Water and air one intermingled roar.
Then we forgot her, for the fiddlers played,
Dancing and singing held our merry crew;
The old ship moaned a little as she swayed.
It blew all night, oh, bitter hard it blew!
So that at midnight I was called on deck
To keep an anchor-watch: I heard the sea
Roar past in white procession filled with wreck;
Intense bright stars burned frosty over me,
And the Greek brig beside us dipped and dipped,
White to the muzzle like a half-tide rock,
Drowned to the mainmast with the seas she shipped;
Her cable-swivels clanged at every shock.
And like a never-dying force, the wind
Roared till we shouted with it, roared until
Its vast virality of wrath was thinned,
Had beat its fury breathless and was still.
By dawn the gale had dwindled into flaw,
A glorious morning followed: with my friend
I climbed the fo’c’s’le-head to see; we saw
The waters hurrying shoreward without end.
Haze blotted out the river’s lowest reach;
Out of the gloom the steamers, passing by,
Called with their sirens, hooting their sea-speech;
Out of the dimness others made reply.
And as we watched, there came a rush of feet
Charging the fo’c’s’le till the hatchway shook.
Men all about us thrust their way, or beat,
Crying, “Wanderer! Down the river! Look!”
I looked with them towards the dimness; there
Gleamed like a spirit striding out of night,
A full-rigged ship unutterably fair,
Her masts like trees in winter, frosty-bright.
Foam trembled at her bows like wisps of wool;
She trembled as she towed. I had not dreamed
That work of man could be so beautiful,
In its own presence and in what it seemed.
“So, she is putting back again,” I said.
“How white with frost her yards are on the fore.”
One of the men about me answer made,
“That is not frost, but all her sails are tore,
“Torn into tatters, youngster, in the gale;
Her best foul-weather suit gone.” It was true,
Her masts were white with rags of tattered sail
Many as gannets when the fish are due.
Beauty in desolation was her pride,
Her crowned array a glory that had been;
She faltered tow’rds us like a swan that died,
But altogether ruined she was still a queen.
“Put back with all her sails gone,” went the word;
Then, from her signals flying, rumor ran,
“The sea that stove her boats in killed her third;
She has been gutted and has lost a man.”
So, as though stepping to a funeral march,
She passed defeated homewards whence she came,
Ragged with tattered canvas white as starch,
A wild bird that misfortune had made tame.
She was refitted soon: another took
The dead man’s office; then the singers hove
Her capstan till the snapping hawsers shook;
Out, with a bubble at her bows, she drove.
Again they towed her seawards, and again
We, watching, praised her beauty, praised her trim,
Saw her fair house-flag flutter at the main,
And slowly saunter seawards, dwindling dim;
And wished her well, and wondered, as she died,
How, when her canvas had been sheeted home,
Her quivering length would sweep into her stride,
Making the greenness milky with her foam.
But when we rose next morning, we discerned
Her beauty once again a shattered thing;
Towing to dock the Wanderer returned,
A wounded sea-bird with a broken wing.
A spar was gone, her rigging’s disarray
Told of a worse disaster than the last;
Like draggled hair dishevelled hung the stay,
Drooping and beating on the broken mast.
Half-mast upon her flagstaff hung her flag;
Word went among us how the broken spar
Had gored her captain like an angry stag,
And killed her mate a half-day from the bar.
She passed to dock along the top of flood.
An old man near me shook his head and swore:
“Like a bad woman, she has tasted blood
There’ll be no trusting in her any more.”
We thought it truth, and when we saw her there
Lying in dock, beyond, across the stream,
We would forget that we had called her fair,
We thought her murderess and the past a dream.
And when she sailed again, we watched in awe,
Wondering what bloody act her beauty planned,
What evil lurked behind the thing we saw,
What strength there was that thus annulled man’s hand,
How next its triumph would compel man’s will
Into compliance with external fate,
How next the powers would use her to work ill
On suffering men; we had not long to wait.
For soon the outcry of derision rose,
“Here comes the Wanderer!” the expected cry.
Guessing the cause, our mockings joined with those
Yelled from the shipping as they towed her by.
She passed us close, her seamen paid no heed
To what was called: they stood, a sullen group,
Smoking and spitting, careless of her need,
Mocking the orders given from the poop.
Her mates and boys were working her; we stared.
What was the reason of this strange return,
This third annulling of the thing prepared?
No outward evil could our eyes discern.
Only like one who having formed a plan
Beyond the pitch of common minds, she sailed,
Mocked and deserted by the common man,
Made half divine to me for having failed.
We learned the reason soon: below the town
A stay had parted like a snapping reed,
“Warning,” the men thought, “not to take her down.”
They took the omen, they would not proceed.
Days passed before another crew would sign.
The Wanderer lay in dock alone, unmanned,
Feared as a thing possessed by powers malign,
Bound under curses not to leave the land.
But under passing Time fear passes too;
That terror passed, the sailors’ hearts grew bold.
We learned in time that she had found a crew
And was bound out southwards as of old.
And in contempt we thought, “A little while
Will bring her back again, dismantled, spoiled.
It is herself; she cannot change her style;
She has the habit now of being foiled.”
So when a ship appeared among the haze,
We thought, “The Wanderer back again”; but no,
No Wanderer showed for many, many days,
Her passing lights made other waters glow.
But we would oft think and talk of her,
Tell newer hands her story, wondering, then,
Upon what ocean she was Wanderer,
Bound to the cities built by foreign men.
And one by one our little conclave thinned,
Passed into ships and sailed and so away,
To drown in some great roaring of the wind,
Wanderers themselves, unhappy fortune’s prey.
And Time went by me making memory dim,
Yet still I wondered if the Wanderer fared
Still pointing to the unreached ocean’s rim,
Brightening the water where her breast was bared.
And much in ports abroad I eyed the ships,
Hoping to see her well-remembered form
Come with a curl of bubbles at her lips
Bright to her berth, the sovereign of the storm.
I never did, and many years went by,
Then, near a Southern port, one Christmas Eve,
I watched a gale go roaring through the sky,
Making the cauldrons of clouds upheave.
Then the wrack tattered and the stars appeared,
Millions of stars that seemed to speak in fire;
A byre cock cried aloud that morning neared,
The swinging wind-vane flashed upon the spire.
And soon men looked upon a glittering earth,
Intensely sparkling like a world new-born;
Only to look was spiritual birth,
So bright the raindrops ran along the thorn
So bright they were, that one could almost pass
Beyond their twinkling to the source, and know
The glory pushing in the blade of grass,
That hidden soul which makes the flowers grow.
That soul was there apparent, not revealed,
Unearthly meanings covered every tree,
That wet grass grew in an immortal field,
Those waters fed some never-wrinkled sea.
The scarlet berries in the hedge stood out
Like revelations but the tongue unknown;
Even in the brooks a joy was quick: the trout
Rushed in a dumbness dumb to me alone.
All of the valley was loud with brooks;
I walked the morning, breasting up the fells,
Taking again lost childhood from the rooks,
Whose cawing came above the Christmas bells.
I had not walked that glittering world before,
But up the hill a prompting came to me,
“This line of upland runs along the shore:
Beyond the hedgerow I shall see the sea.”
And on the instant from beyond away
The long familiar sound, a ship’s bell, broke
The hush below me in the unseen bay.
Old memories came, that inner prompting spoke.
And bright above the hedge a seagull’s wings
Flashed and were steady upon empty air.
“A Power unseen,” I cried, “prepares these things;
Those are her bells, the Wanderer is there.”
So, hurrying to the hedge and looking down,
I saw a mighty bay’s wind-crinkled blue
Ruffling the image of a tranquill town,
With lapsing waters glimmering as they grew.
And near me in the road the shipping swung,
So stately and so still in such a great peace
That like to drooping crests their colors hung,
Only their shadows trembled without cease.
I did but glance upon these anchored ships.
Even as my thought had told, I saw her plain;
Tense, like a supple athlete with lean hips,
Swiftness at pause, the Wanderer come again
Come as of old a queen, untouched by Time,
Resting the beauty that no seas could tire,
Sparkling, as though the midnight’s rain were rime,
Like a man’s thought transfigured into fire,
And as I looked, one of her men began
To sing some simple tune of Christmas day;
Among her crew the song spread, man to man,
Until the singing rang across the bay;
And soon in other anchored ships the men
Joined in the singing with clear throats, until
The farm-boy heard it up the windy glen,
Above the noise of sheep-bells on the hill.
Over the water came the lifted song
Blind pieces in a mighty game we sing;
Life’s battle is a conquest for the strong;
The meaning shows in the defeated thing.
I hold that when a person dies
His soul returns again to earth;
Arrayed in some new flesh-disguise
Another mother gives him birth.
With sturdier limbs and brighter brain
The old soul takes the road again.
Such is my own belief and trust;
This hand, this hand that holds the pen,
Has many a hundred times been dust
And turned, as dust, to dust again;
These eyes of mine have blinked and shown
In Thebes, in Troy, in Babylon.
All that I rightly think or do,
Or make, or spoil, or bless, or blast,
Is curse or blessing justly due
For sloth or effort in the past.
My life’s a statement of the sum
Of vice indulged, or overcome.
I know that in my lives to be
My sorry heart will ache and burn,
And worship, unavailingly,
The woman whom I used to spurn,
And shake to see another have
The love I spurned, the love she gave.
And I shall know, in angry words,
In gibes, and mocks, and many a tear,
A carrion flock of homing-birds,
The gibes and scorns I uttered here.
The brave word that I failed to speak
Will brand me dastard on the cheek.
And as I wander on the roads
I shall be helped and healed and blessed;
Dear words shall cheer and be as goads
To urge to heights before unguessed.
My road shall be the road I made;
All that I gave shall be repaid.
So shall I fight, so shall I tread,
In this long war beneath the stars;
So shall a glory wreathe my head,
So shall I faint and show the scars,
Until this case, this clogging mould,
Be smithied all to kingly gold.
One road leads to London,
One road leads to Wales,
My road leads me seawards
To the white dipping sails.
One road leads to the river,
And it goes singing slow;
My road leads to shipping,
Where the bronzed sailors go.
Leads me, lures me, calls me
To salt green tossing sea;
A road without earth’s road-dust
Is the right road for me.
A wet road heaving, shining,
And wild with seagull’s cries,
A mad salt sea-wind blowing
The salt spray in my eyes.
My road calls me, lures me
West, east, south, and north;
Most roads lead men homewards,
My road leads me forth.
To add more miles to the tally
Of grey miles left behind,
In quest of that one beauty
God put me here to find.
The Wild Duck
Twilight. Red in the West.
Dimness. A glow on the wood.
The teams plod home to rest.
The wild duck come to glean.
O souls not understood,
What a wild cry in the pool;
What things have the farm ducks seen
That they cry so–huddle and cry?
Only the soul that goes.
Eager. Eager. Flying.
Over the globe of the moon,
Over the wood that glows.
Wings linked. Necks a-strain,
A rush and a wild crying.
A cry of the long pain
In the reeds of a steel lagoon,
In a land that no man knows.
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.
In the harbor, in the island, in the Spanish Seas,
Are the tiny white houses and the orange trees,
And day-long, night-long, the cool and pleasant breeze
Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.
There is the red wine, the nutty Spanish ale,
The shuffle of the dancers, the old salt’s tale,
The squeaking fiddle, and the soughing in the sail
Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.
And o’ nights there’s fire-flies and the yellow moon,
And in the ghostly palm-trees the sleepy tune
Of the quiet voice calling me, the long low croon
Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.
Friends and loves we have none, nor wealth nor blessed abode,
But the hope of the City of God at the other end of the road.
Not for us are content, and quiet, and peace of mind,
For we go seeking a city that we shall never find.
There is no solace on earth for us for such as we,
Who search for a hidden city that we shall never see.
Only the road and the dawn, the sun, the wind, and the rain,
And the watch fire under stars, and sleep, and the road again.
We seek the City of God, and the haunt where beauty dwells,
And we find the noisy mart and the sound of burial bells.
Never the golden city, where radiant people meet,
But the dolorous town where mourners are going about the street.
We travel the dusty road till the light of the day is dim,
And sunset shows us spires away on the world’s rim.
We travel from dawn to dusk, till the day is past and by,
Seeking the Holy City beyond the rim of the sky.
Friends and loves we have none, nor wealth nor blest abode,
But the hope of the City of God at the other end of the road.
“When I’m discharged in Liverpool ‘n’ draws my bit o’ pay,
I won’t come to sea no more.
I’ll court a pretty little lass ‘n’ have a weddin’ day,
‘N’ settle somewhere down ashore.
I’ll never fare to sea again a-temptin’ Davy Jones,
A-hearkening to the cruel sharks a-hungerin’ for my bones;
I’ll run a blushin’ dairy-farm or go a-crackin’ stones,
Or buy ‘n’ keep a little liquor-store,”—
So he said.
They towed her in to Liverpool, we made the hooker fast,
And the copper-bound officials paid the crew,
And Billy drew his money, but the money didn’t last,
For he painted the alongshore blue,—
It was rum for Poll, and rum for Nan, and gin for Jolly Jack.
He shipped a week later in the clothes upon his back,
He had to pinch a little straw, he had to beg a sack
To sleep on, when his watch was through,—
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,
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,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
Seven Poems From ‘Lollingdon Downs’
Here in the self is all that man can know
Of Beauty, all the wonder, all the power,
All the unearthly colour, all the glow,
Here in the self which withers like a flower;
Here in the self which fades as hours pass,
And droops and dies and rots and is forgotten
Sooner, by ages, than the mirroring glass
In which it sees its glory still unrotten.
Here in the flesh, within the flesh, behind,
Swift in the blood and throbbing on the bone,
Beauty herself, the universal mind,
Eternal April wandering alone;
The God, the holy Ghost, the atoning Lord,
Here in the flesh, the never yet explored.
What am I, Life? A thing of watery salt
Held in cohesion by unresting cells
Which work they know not why, which never halt,
Myself unwitting where their master dwells.
I do not bid them, yet they toil, they spin;
A world which uses me as I use them,
Nor do I know which end or which begin,
Nor which to praise, which pamper, which condemn.
So, like a marvel in a marvel set,
I answer to the vast, as wave by wave
The sea of air goes over, dry or wet,
Or the full moon comes swimming from her cave,
Or the great sun comes north, this myriad I
Tingles, not knowing how, yet wondering why.
If I could get within this changing I,
This ever altering thing which yet persists,
Keeping the features it is reckoned by,
While each component atom breaks or twists;
If, wandering past strange groups of shifting forms,
Cells at their hidden marvels hard at work,
Pale from much toil, or red from sudden storms,
I might attain to where the Rulers lurk;
If, pressing past the guards in those grey gates,
The brain’s most folded, intertwisted shell,
I might attain to that which alters fates,
The King, the supreme self, the Master Cell;
Then, on Man’s earthly peak, I might behold
The unearthly self beyond, unguessed, untold.
Ah, we are neither heaven nor earth, but men;
Something that uses and despises both,
That takes its earth’s contentment in the pen,
Then sees the world’s injustice and is wroth,
And flinging off youth’s happy promise, flies
Up to some breach, despising earthly things,
And, in contempt of hell and heaven, dies
Rather than bear some yoke of priests or kings.
Our joys are not of heaven nor earth, but man’s,
A woman’s beauty, or a child’s delight,
The trembling blood when the discoverer scans
The sought-for world, the gussed-at satellite;
The ringing scene, the stone at point to blush
For unborn men to look at and say ‘Hush.’
Roses are beauty, but I never see
Those blood drops from the burning heart of June
Glowing like thought upon the living tree
Without a pity that they die so soon,
Die into petals, like those roses old,
Those women, who were summer in men’s hearts
Before the smile upon the Sphinx was cold
Or sand had hid the Syrian and his arts.
O myriad dust of beauty that lies thick
Under our feet that not a single grain
But stirred and moved in beauty and was quick
For one brief moon and died nor lived again;
But when the moon rose lay upon the grass
Pasture to living beauty, life that was.
I went into the fields, but you were there
Waiting for me, so all the summer flowers
Were only glimpses of your starry powers;
Beautiful and inspired dust they were.
I went down by the waters, and a bird
Sang with your voice in all the unknown tones
Of all that self of you I have not heard,
So that my being felt you to the bones.
I went into the house, and shut the door
To be alone, but you were there with me;
All beauty in a little room may be,
Though the roof lean and muddy be the floor.
Then in my bed I bound my tired eyes
To make a darkness for my weary brain;
But like a presence you were there again,
Being and real, beautiful and wise,
So that I could not sleep, and cried aloud,
‘ You strange grave thing, what is it you would say? ‘
The redness of your dear lips dimmed to grey,
The waters ebbed, the moon hid in a cloud.
Death lies in wait for you, you wild thing in the wood,
Shy-footed, beauty dear, half-seen, half-understood,
Glimpsed in the beech-wood dim and in the dropping fir,
Shy like a fawn and sweet and beauty’s minister.
Glimpsed as in flying clouds by night the little moon,
A wonder, a delight, a paleness passing soon.
Only a moment held, only an hour seen,
Only an instant known in all that life has been,
One instant in the sand to drink that gush of grace,
The beauty of your way, the marvel of your face.
Death lies in wait for you, but few short hours he gives;
I perish even as you by whom all spirit lives.
Come to me, spirit, come, and fill my hour of breath
With hours of life in life that pay no toll to death.
We’re bound for blue water where the great winds blow,
It’s time to get the tacks aboard, time for us to go;
The crowd’s at the capstan and the tune’s in the shout,
“A long pull, a strong pull, and warp the hooker out.”
The bow-wash is eddying, spreading from the bows,
Aloft and loose the topsails and some one give a rouse;
A salt-Atlantic chanty shall be music to the dead,
“A long pull, a strong pull, and the yard to the masthead.”
Shrilly squeal the running sheaves, the weather-gear strains,
Such a clatter of chain-sheets, the devil’s in the chains;
Over us the bright stars, under us the drowned,
“A long pull, a strong pull, and we’re outward bound.”
Yonder, round and ruddy, is the mellow old moon,
The red-funnelled tug has gone, and now, sonny, soon
We’ll be clear of the Channel, so watch how you steer,
“Ease her when she pitches, and so-long, my dear.”
Captain Stratton’s Fancy
Oh some are fond of red wine, and some are fond of white,
And some are all for dancing by the pale moonlight;
But rum alone’s the tipple, and the heart’s delight
Of the old bold mate of Henry Morgan.
Oh some are fond of Spanish wine, and some are fond of French,
And some’ll swallow tay and stuff fit only for a wench;
But I’m for right Jamaica till I roll beneath the bench,
Says the old bold mate of Henry Morgan.
Oh some are for the lily, and some are for the rose,
But I am for the sugar-cane that in Jamaica grows;
For it’s that that makes the bonny drink to warm my copper nose,
Says the old bold mate of Henry Morgan.
Oh some are fond of fiddles, and a song well sung,
And some are all for music for to lilt upon the tongue;
But mouths were made for tankards, and for sucking at the bung,
Says the old bold mate of Henry Morgan.
Oh some are fond of dancing, and some are fond of dice,
And some are all for red lips, and pretty lasses’ eyes;
But a right Jamaica puncheon is a finer prize
To the old bold mate of Henry Morgan.
Oh some that’s good and godly ones they hold that it’s a sin
To troll the jolly bowl around, and let the dollars spin;
But I’m for toleration and for drinking at an inn,
Says the old bold mate of Henry Morgan.
Oh some are sad and wretched folk that go in silken suits,
And there’s a mort of wicked rogues that live in good reputes;
So I’m for drinking honestly, and dying in my boots,
Like an old bold mate of Henry Morgan.
Once in a hundred years the Lemmings come
Westward, in search of food, over the snow;
Westward until the salt sea drowns them dumb;
Westward, till all are drowned, those Lemmings go.
Once, it is thought, there was a westward land
Now drowned where there was food for those starved things,
And memory of the place has burnt its brand
In the little brains of all the Lemming Kings.
Perhaps, long since, there was a land beyond
Westward from death, some city, some calm place
Where one could taste God’s quiet and be fond
With the little beauty of a human face;
But now the land is drowned. Yet we still press
Westward, in search, to death, to nothingness.
“Goneys an’ gullies an’ all o’ the birds o’ the sea
They ain’t no birds, not really”, said Billy the Dane.
“Not mollies, nor gullies, nor goneys at all”, said he,
“But simply the sperrits of mariners livin’ again.
“Them birds goin’ fishin’ is nothin’ but the souls o’ the drowned,
Souls o’ the drowned, an’ the kicked as are never no more
An’ that there haughty old albatross cruisin’ around,
Belike he’s Admiral Nelson or Admiral Noah.
“An’ merry’s the life they are living. They settle and dip,
They fishes, they never stands watches, they waggle their wings;
When a ship comes by, they fly to look at the ship
To see how the nowaday mariners manages things.
“When freezing aloft in a snorter I tell you I wish,
(Though maybe it ain’t like a Christian), I wish I could be
A haughty old copper-bound albatross dipping for fish
And coming the proud over all o’ the birds o’ the sea.”
Wow! This is indeed one of the best poetry collections I’ve read. John Masefield was not just recognized by his poems but also by his novels. He became widely known to society and was appreciated by critics. He was also awarded the annual Edmond de Polignac Prize in 1912.
Of course, Sea-Fever-my all-time favorite poem. It was indeed a masterpiece that will be remembered for millions of decades.
What about you? What’s your most favorite poem of John Masefield?
Do you still want to add another of his poem to this list? Let me know in the comment section below! 😉