Page:John Masefield.djvu/23

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By Stuart Sherman

John Masefield has a grave musical voice, and when, with sharp little gushes of emotion, he reads "The West Wind" and makes one hear his lark singing "above the green wheat," I swear no sweeter song has been sung in my time or more soothing to a tired heart. Why should I not go on and say that I am not ready to sift him yet, because nearly all of his work, perhaps barring the adaptations from Racine, still seems alive?

This lean, sad-eyed master of song-craft, who has plowed Gloucestershire with oxen and the deep sea with ships, has given me more poetic pleasure than any other English poet living. Through his awakened personality I have felt mighty rhythms pulsing through forms of life that dissolve and decay; through waves that break, fields sown and harvested, foiled tragic lovers, hot races ending with blown steeds and fallen horsemen, and forlorn hopes ebbing out in blood-drenched, frost-bitten trenches by the Hellespont. His glorification of the invincible vanquished stirs me, I confess, profoundly. It is the inside story of human life. He tells it with swift, bright speed, and yet with a pathos which bites to the bone.

Without going through any critical processes, I have but to glance at the fifteen volumes which preceded this collected edition to my shelves to see that in the long race of this last twenty-five years Masefield has now for a decade or more been in the lead. My favorites of the old time, Stephen Phillips and John Synge, fell long ago into the blind cave of night. Masefield's immediacy and sincerity and fresh color are unfavorable to most of the others.


Of course, I know that John Masefield has had his quarter-century of productivity and his decade of fame, and that it is high time now for him to be slipping off the stage and leaving elbow room for the critics to haul the ascending stars into heaven. I know what the voguish critics are saying that—Masefield began with echoes of Kipling and Synge; that he

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