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ANTHOLOGY OF MASSACHUSETTS POETS (12)

2006-08-28 19:24

    JOHN MASEFIELD

    I

    MASEFIELD (HIMSELF)

    GOD said, and frowned, as He looked on Shropshire clay: "Alone, 'twont do; composite, would I make This man-child rare; 'twere well, methinks, to take A handful from the Stratford tomb, and weigh A few of Shelley's ashes; Bunyan may Contribute, too, and, for my sweet Son's sake, I'll visit Avalon; then, let me slake The whole with Wyclif-water from the Bay.

    A sailor, he! Too godly, though, I fear; Offset it with tobacco! Next, I'll find Hedge-roses, star-dust, and a vagrant's mind; His mother's heart now let me breathe upon; When west winds blow, I'll whisper in her ear: "Apocalypse awaits him; call him John!"

    II

    HIS PORTRAIT

    A Man of Sorrows! with such haunted eyes, I trow, the Master looked across the lake,—— Looked from the Judas-heart, so soon to make Of Him the world's historic sacrifice; Moreover, as I gaze, do more arise; Great souls, great pallid ghosts of pain, who wake And wander yet; all, weary men who brake Their hearts; all hemlock-drunk, with growing wise: Hudson adrift; Defoe; the Wandering Jew; Tannhauser; Faust; Andrea; phantoms, all, In Masefield's eyes you lodge; and to the wall I turn you,-hand a-tremble,——lest you make Of mine own stricken eyes a mirror, too. Wherein the sad world's sadder for your sake.

    III

    HIS "DAUBER"

    O Masefield's "Dauber!" You, who being dead, Yet speak: heroic, dauntless, flaming soul, Too suddenly snuffed out! Here take fresh toll Of cognizance, and, in your ocean bed, Serenely rest, assured that who has read What you would fain have pictured of the Pole Would gladly match your part against the whole Of many a modern artist, Paris-bred.

    And more than this: if you, indeed, are his, Then, by a dual truth, he, too, is yours; For, marked and credited by what endures, Were it the only thing, which bears his name, (O deathless Soul, I speak you true in this!) "The Dauber" has brought Masefield to his fame.

    IV

    HIS "GALLIPOLI"

    "Small wonder," speaks my pensive self, "that he Whose passion 'tis to sing of men who fail,—— (Belabored, broken by The Unseen Flail) Small wonder that be makes Gallipoli

    His fervent text, for could there be A costlier failure in Earth's shuddering tale? Think of heroic Sulva's bloody swale; Of Anzac's tortured thirst and agony!" But as I read, protesting voices cry: "Not we, Not we, who fell among the daffodils, Who conquered Death among those blistered hills, And found our glory after mortal pain; Not we, who failed and lost Gallipoli; The sad, strange failure theirs who mourn in vain!"

    V

    HIS MEAD

    So, Masefield, have your royal words once more Called forth the praise of men, where praise is due; Your great elegiac, tragically true, Must leave all Britain prouder than before; And, in spite of all that breaking hearts deplore, And all that anguished consciences must rue, One arrowed gladness surely pierces through >From London's centre to Canadian shore:

    When England, sobbing, mourns Gallipoli, When warm tears flow for Rupert Brooke And all the splendid Youth her error took As hostage from the fields of daffodils, Let this a present, living solace be: You are not sleeping in those cruel hills!

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