Page:John Masefield.djvu/35

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So shall we be; so will our cities lie,

Unknown beneath the grasses of the Summer,
Walls without roofs, naves open to the sky,
Doors open to the wind, the only comer.
And men will grub the ruins, eyes will peer
Fingers will grope for pennies, brains will tire
To chronicle the skills we practiced here,
While still we breathed the wind and trod the mire.
O, like the ghost at dawn scared by the cock
Let us make haste, to let the spirit dive
Deep in self's sea, until the deeps unlock
The depths and sunken gold of being alive
Till, though our Many pass, a something stands
Aloft through Time that covers all with sands.

Is there another poet in whose work there is combined the fruitful meditation which distinguishes Masefield's sonnets and the impelling flow and graphic sharpness of his narrative verse? He is an extraordinarily versatile poet. Where else among living writers of verse can one find the ancient ballad form recreated as in "The Hounds of Hell" and "Cap on Head," with no loss of the original freshness and dramatic sweep? "Dauber" stands as the best poem of the sea and as one of the best stories of the sea in the English tongue. And he has served the countryside, as well, in Reynard the Fox, The Daffodil Fields and King Cole. All the life of an English county stirs in Reynard the Fox, and that man's blood is sluggish indeed who can put down the poem without reading through to the finish of the hunt. Here is narrative that flies.


Among all his contemporaries in poetry there is none who has a better chance of survival. If he had been less intelligible, those who complain now of his intellectual content would be better satisfied, but he has chosen to stand with the best poets in his tongue in that also; his simplicity is of the sort that helps to keep poetry remembered and alive. The poetry that springs from emotion, not the intellectual exercise. In that conception of his art John Masefield has been unswerving: the beauty of ships that has moved him, the sea's power, the soul of man fighting in the last ditch—his emotional response to such as these has been finely tempered, of ringing honesty, and fired with the spark that brings a glow to the minds of other men.

New York Times Book Review