Best Famous John Masefield Poems

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Written by John Masefield | Create an image from this poem

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.
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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.
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 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.
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The Yarn of the Loch Achray

 The Loch Achray was a clipper tall
With seven-and-twenty hands in all.
Twenty to hand and reef and haul, A skipper to sail and mates to bawl 'Tally on to the tackle-fall, Heave now 'n' start her, heave 'n' pawl!' Hear the yarn of a sailor, An old yarn learned at sea.
Her crew were shipped and they said 'Farewell, So-long, my Tottie, my lovely gell; We sail to-day if we fetch to hell, It's time we tackled the wheel a spell.
' Hear the yarn of a sailor, An old yarn learned at sea.
The dockside loafers talked on the quay The day that she towed down to sea: 'Lord, what a handsome ship she be! Cheer er, sonny boys, three times three!' And the dockside loafers gave her a shout As the red-funnelled tug-boat towed her out; They gave her a cheer as the custom is, And the crew yelled 'Take our loves to Liz-- Three cheers, bullies, for old Pier Head 'N' the bloody stay-at-homes!' they said.
Hear the yarn of a sailor, An old yarn learned at sea.
In the grey of the coming on of night She dropped the tug at the Tuskar Light, 'N' the topsails went to the topmast head To a chorus that fairly awoke the dead.
She trimmed her yards and slanted South With her royals set and a bone in her mouth.
Hear the yarn of a sailor, An old yarn learned at sea.
She crossed the Line and all went well, They ate, they slept, and they struck the bell And I give you a gospel truth when I state The crowd didn't find any fault with the Mate, But one night off the river Plate.
Hear the yarn of a sailor, An old yarn learned at sea.
It freshened up till it blew like thunder And burrowed her deep, lee-scuppers under.
The old man said, 'I mean to hang on Till her canvas busts or her sticks are gone'-- Which the blushing looney did, till at last Overboard went her mizzen-mast.
Hear the yarn of a sailor, An old yarn learned at sea.
Then a fierce squall struck the 'Loch Achray' And bowed her down to her water-way; Her main-shrouds gave and her forestay, And a green sea carried her wheel away; Ere the watch below had time to dress She was cluttered up in a blushing mess.
Hear the yarn of a sailor, An old yarn learned at sea.
She couldn't lay-to nor yet pay-off, And she got swept in the bloody trough; Her masts were gone, and afore you knowed She filled by the head and down she goed.
Her crew made seven-and-twenty dishes For the big jack-sharks and the little fishes, And over their bones the water swishes.
Hear the yarn of a sailor, An old yarn learned at sea.
The wives and girls they watch in the rain For a ship as won't come home again.
'I reckon it's them head-winds,' they say, 'She'll be home to-morrow, if not to-day.
I'll just nip home 'n' I'll air the sheets 'N' buy the fixins 'n' cook the meats As my man likes 'n' as my man eats.
' So home they goes by the windy streets, Thinking their men are homeward bound With anchors hungry for English ground, And the bloody fun of it is, they're drowned! Hear the yarn of a sailor, An old yarn learned at sea.
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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.
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The Passing Strange

 Out of the earth to rest or range
Perpetual in perpetual change,
The unknown passing through the strange.
Water and saltness held together To tread the dust and stand the weather, And plough the field and stretch the tether, To pass the wine-cup and be witty, Water the sands and build the city, Slaughter like devils and have pity, Be red with rage and pale with lust, Make beauty come, make peace, make trust, Water and saltness mixed with dust; Drive over earth, swim under sea, Fly in the eagle’s secrecy, Guess where the hidden comets be; Know all the deathy seeds that still Queen Helen’s beauty, Caesar’s will, And slay them even as they kill; Fashion an altar for a rood, Defile a continent with blood, And watch a brother starve for food: Love like a madman, shaking, blind, Till self is burnt into a kind Possession of another mind; Brood upon beauty, till the grace Of beauty with the holy face Brings peace into the bitter place; Prove in the lifeless granites, scan The stars for hope, for guide, for plan; Live as a woman or a man; Fasten to lover or to friend, Until the heart break at the end: The break of death that cannot mend; Then to lie useless, helpless, still, Down in the earth, in dark, to fill The roots of grass or daffodil.
Down in the earth, in dark, alone, A mockery of the ghost in bone, The strangeness, passing the unknown.
Time will go by, that outlasts clocks, Dawn in the thorps will rouse the cocks, Sunset be glory on the rocks: But it, the thing, will never heed Even the rootling from the seed Thrusting to suck it for its need.
Since moons decay and suns decline, How else should end this life of mine? Water and saltness are not wine.
But in the darkest hour of night, When even the foxes peer for sight, The byre-cock crows; he feels the light.
So, in this water mixed with dust, The byre-cock spirit crows from trust That death will change because it must; For all things change, the darkness changes, The wandering spirits change their ranges, The corn is gathered to the granges.
The corn is sown again, it grows; The stars burn out, the darkness goes; The rhythms change, they do not close.
They change, and we, who pass like foam, Like dust blown through the streets of Rome, Change ever, too; we have no home, Only a beauty, only a power, Sad in the fruit, bright in the flower, Endlessly erring for its hour, But gathering, as we stray, a sense Of Life, so lovely and intense, It lingers when we wander hence, That those who follow feel behind Their backs, when all before is blind, Our joy, a rampart to the mind.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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 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.
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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.
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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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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.
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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.
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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.