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Best Famous John Masefield Poems

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by John Masefield | |

Trade Winds

 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.


by John Masefield | |

On Growing Old

 Be with me, Beauty, for the fire is dying; 
My dog and I are old, too old for roving.
Man, whose young passion sets the spindrift flying, Is soon too lame to march, too cold for loving.
I take the book and gather to the fire, Turning old yellow leaves; minute by minute The clock ticks to my heart.
A withered wire, Moves a thiun ghost of music in the spinet.
I cannot sail your seas, I cannot wander Your cornland, nor your hill-land, nor your valleys Ever again, nore share the battle yonder Where the young knight the broken squadron rallies.
Only stay quiet while my mind remembers The beauty of fire from the beauty of embers.
Beauty, have pity! for the strong have power, The rich their wealth, the beautiful their grace, Summer of man its sunlight and its flower.
Spring-time of man, all April in a face.
Only, as in the jostling in the Strand, Where the mob thrusts, or loiters, or is loud, The beggar with the saucer in his hand Asks only a penny from the passing crowd, So, from this glittering world with all its fashion, Its fire, and play of men, its stir, its march, Let me have wisdom, Beauty, wisdom and passion, Bread to the soul, rain when the summers parch.
Give me but these, and though the darkness close Even the night will blossom as the rose.


by John Masefield | |

A Wanderers 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, 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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by John Masefield | |

Roadways

 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.


by John Masefield | |

An Epilogue

 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.


by John Masefield | |

A Creed

 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.


by John Masefield | |

The Seekers

 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.


by John Masefield | |

Captain Strattons 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.


by John Masefield | |

C.L.M.

 IN the dark womb where I began 
My mother's life made me a man.
Through all the months of human birth Her beauty fed my common earth.
I cannot see, nor breathe, nor stir, But through the death of some of her.
Down in the darkness of the grave She cannot see the life she gave.
For all her love, she cannot tell Whether I use it ill or well, Nor knock at dusty doors to find Her beauty dusty in the mind.
If the grave's gates could be undone, She would not know her little son, I am so grown.
If we should meet She would pass by me in the street, Unless my soul's face let her see My sense of what she did for me.
What have I done to keep in mind My debt to her and womankind? What woman's happier life repays Her for those months of wretched days? For all my mouthless body leeched Ere Birth's releasing hell was reached? What have I done, or tried, or said In thanks to that dear woman dead? Men triumph over women still, Men trample women's rights at will, And man's lust roves the world untamed.
* * * * O grave, keep shut lest I be shamed.


by John Masefield | |

Tewkesbury Road

 IT is good to be out on the road, and going one knows not where, 
Going through meadow and village, one knows not whither or why; 
Through the grey light drift of the dust, in the keen cool rush of the air, 
Under the flying white clouds, and the broad blue lift of the sky.
And to halt at the chattering brook, in a tall green fern at the brink Where the harebell grows, and the gorse, and the foxgloves purple and white; Where the shifty-eyed delicate deer troop down to the brook to drink When the stars are mellow and large at the coming on of the night.
O, to feel the beat of the rain, and the homely smell of the earth, Is a tune for the blood to jig to, and joy past power of words; And the blessed green comely meadows are all a-ripple with mirth At the noise of the lambs at play and the dear wild cry of the birds.


by John Masefield | |

Night Is On The Downland

 Night is on the downland, on the lonely moorland,
On the hills where the wind goes over sheep-bitten turf,
Where the bent grass beats upon the unplowed poorland
And the pine-woods roar like the surf.
Here the Roman lived on the wind-barren lonely, Dark now and haunted by the moorland fowl; None comes here now but the peewit only, And moth-like death in the owl.
Beauty was here in on this beetle-droning downland; The thought of a Caesar in the purple came From the palace by the Tiber in the Roman townland To this wind-swept hill with no name.
Lonely Beauty came here and was here in sadness, Brave as a thought on the frontier of the mind, In the camp of the wild upon the march of madness, The bright-eyed Queen of the Blind.
Now where Beauty was are the wind-withered gorses, Moaning like old men in the hill-wind's blast; The flying sky is dark with running horses, And the night is full of the past.


by John Masefield | |

The Island of Skyros

 Here, where we stood together, we three men, 
Before the war had swept us to the East 
Three thousand miles away, I stand again 
And hear the bells, and breathe, and go to feast.
We trod the same path, to the selfsame place, Yet here I stand, having beheld their graves, Skyros whose shadows the great seas erase, And Seddul Bahr that ever more blood craves.
So, since we communed here, our bones have been Nearer, perhaps, than they again will be, Earth and the worldwide battle lie between, Death lies between, and friend-destroying sea.
Yet here, a year ago, we talked and stood As I stnad now, with pulses beating blood.
I saw her like a shadow on the sky In the last light, a blur upon the sea, Then the gale's darkness put the shadow by, But from one grave that island talked to me; And, in the midnight, in the breaking storm, I saw its blackness and a blinking light, And thought, "So death obscures your gentle form, So memory strives to make the darkness bright; And, in that heap of rocks, your body lies, Part of the island till the planet ends, My gentle comrade, beautiful and wise, Part of this crag this bitter surge offends, While I, who pass, a little obscure thing, War with this force, and breathe, and am its king.
"


by John Masefield | |

On Eastnor Knoll

 SILENT are the woods, and the dim green boughs are 
Hushed in the twilight: yonder, in the path through 
The apple orchard, is a tired plough-boy 
Calling the cows home.
A bright white star blinks, the pale moon rounds, but Still the red, lurid wreckage of the sunset Smoulders in smoky fire, and burns on The misty hill-tops.
Ghostly it grows, and darker, the burning Fades into smoke, and now the gusty oaks are A silent army of phantoms thronging A land of shadows.


by John Masefield | |

Lollingdon Downs VIII

 THE Kings go by with jewled crowns; 
Their horses gleam, their banners shake, their spears are many.
The sack of many-peopled towns Is all their dream: The way they take Leaves but a ruin in the brake, And, in the furrow that the plowmen make, A stampless penny, a tale, a dream.
The Merchants reckon up their gold, Their letters come, their ships arrive, their freights are glories; The profits of their treasures sold They tell and sum; Their foremen drive Their servants, starved to half-alive, Whose labors do but make the earth a hive Of stinking stories; a tale, a dream.
The Priests are singing in their stalls, Their singing lifts, their incense burns, their praying clamors; Yet God is as the sparrow falls, The ivy drifts; The votive urns Are all left void when Fortune turns, The god is but a marble for the kerns To break with hammers; a tale, a dream.
O Beauty, let me know again The green earth cold, the April rain, the quiet waters figuring sky, The one star risen.
So shall I pass into the feast Not touched by King, Merchant, or Priest; Know the red spirit of the beast, Be the green grain; Escape from prison.


by John Masefield | |

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 gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray 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.


by John Masefield | |

Cargoes

 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.


by John Masefield | |

Sea Change

 "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.
"


by John Masefield | |

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 crossbones 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 peoples 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'sle, 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.