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“A Biographical Sketch of one of the greatest of England’s poets, John Masefield, a poet and writer for all of us, now overlooked but well worth the effort in reading and knowing”

 

Friends, thinkers and men and women of all thoughts, ideas and opinions, I bid you all to join with me in another voyage of intellectual discovery. I do so welcome you in this quest and task of attaining and coming to know intellectual honesty and honest discernment. Join with me in this voyage of discovery to get at and find what is valid and authentic in this present world of confusion and do come with me in tearing apart the curtain of lies and darkness that hides from us what is truth and facts.

Today I once again have the great privilege of speaking of and presenting the life and works of one the greatest and most notable English writers and poets, the author of some of the greatest literary treasures of the world, poems and writings once read, cannot be easily discarded and once read through engage our minds and spirits and souls as few works of prose and poetry can do.

I am, as some if not many of you may know, a fan of English and American literature. When I read great poets such as Keats, Shelley, Byron, Tennyson and Browning, and equally great novelists such as Melville, Steinbeck, Conrad, Jane Austen, Dickens and Thackeray, my mind and consciousness are raised to a different level. I acquire in reading them and knowing these authors a different level of understanding. I am in coming to know them lifted up intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I will never regret the time spent in reading them and being exposed to them and absorbing their greatness, despite our American society telling us on a constant basis that time spent with them has no practical value as producing no income. A life without this great literature is a life cheated and wasted of what these greatest of minds have to offer.

John Masefield was born in 1878 and died in 1967. He was an English poet and writer and poet laureate from 1930 to 1967. Among his best-known works are the children’s novels, The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights, and the poems “The Everlasting Mercy” and “Sea Fever.”

He was born in Ledbury, England. His mother died when he was six and he went to live with his aunt. His father died soon afterwards, following a mental breakdown. Masefield went to Kings School where he was a boarder from 1888 to 1891and then boarded the ship Conway to train for a life at sea. He spent much of his time reading and decided to become a writer. In 1894 he boarded a ship destined for Chile where he had sunstroke and was hospitalized. He returned home to England as a passenger on a steamship. In 1895 he returned to sea destined for New York City and in New York he jumped ship and proceeded to travel the countryside extensively. He found work as a bar keeper’s assistant and for two years worked at a carpet factory in Yonkers, NY. There again he read widely and in 1897 returned home to England aboard a steamship. He was married in 1903 and the couple had two children.

By 1902 his poems were being published in periodicals and his first collection of verse, entitled Salt Water Ballads, was published that year. He then wrote two novels in 1908 and 1909. In 1911 he wrote a long narrative poem, “The Everlasting Mercy,” and the next year produced two more.

When the First World War began in 1914, he was old enough to be exempted from military service but joined the staff of a British hospital for French soldiers, serving briefly as an orderly. Upon his return home, he was invited to the United States on a three-month lecture tour. His primary purpose was to lecture on English literature. In 1918 he returned to America on his second lecture tour after writing Gallipoli, a book about the failure of the Allied effort in the Dardanelles. The speaking engagements were quite successful. Toward the end of his visit, Yale and Harvard conferred honorary degrees on him. By the 1920s he was an accomplished and respected writer and wrote both narrative poems and shorter lyrics. Between 1924 and 1939 he published twelve novels. In 1921 he gave the British Academy’s Shakespeare Lecture. In 1930 he was appointed Poet Laureate and remained in that position until his death in 1967. After this appointment, he was awarded the Order of Merit in 1960. His wife died at age 93 and in 1966 he developed gangrene in his ankle. This spread to his leg and he died of an infection in 1967.

I have always found great pleasure in reading the verse of John Masefield and at a very early age, I read and encountered some of his lyrics in The Oxford Book of English Verse. His lyrics of the sea were particularly engaging and entrancing. I will never forget them from the day I read them to this present date. I have not read his novels, but I am sure I would benefit from them in every way. You of all ages and generations do go to an anthology and read his poetry. You will find much to enjoy and have your spirits and minds uplifted.

 

I acknowledge my debt for this essay to the article in Wikipedia on this author.