John Masefield

1878-1967

 

John Masefield's ashes are buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London, England. (Due to lack of space, he was the last poet to be interred here.)
 



Burial Stone of John Masefield
Photograph by Kieran Smith

Masefield's idyllic country childhood was shattered when he was orphaned following the death of his mother in 1884. He was taken in by an unsympathetic aunt, who sent him to sea at the age of thirteen to curtail his interest in literature. At the age of seventeen, while on his second Atlantic crossing, he deserted ship in America and lived for a while as a vagrant.

On returning to England he began his literary career in earnest and over the years wrote poetry, plays, novels, autobiography, criticism and children's stories.

In 1902 he published Salt-Water Ballads which contained his popular poem Sea Fever (I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and sky,/All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by). His other famous nautical poem Cargoes appeared in his 1910 collection Ballads and Poems.

Masefield is also remembered for his verse tale Reynard the Fox (1919).

After the death of his wife (Constance de Cherois Crommelin) in 1960 Masefield became a virtual recluse.

Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate in 1930 and awarded the Order of Merit in in 1935.

He died in Abingdon, Oxfordshire on 12 May, 1967 after contracting gangrene following an injury to his leg.

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, amethysts,
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-rail, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Cargoes

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