16
John Masefield

IN 1930 Britain had a Labour Government, and the task of appointing a Laureate fell to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. It has jokingly been suggested that he appointed a poet likely to be understood by the working man -- a poet in whose works are to be found the words the working man uses, 'bloody' and the like. But these days such words have a universal currency! It is true John Masefield uses them, and with good effect; but he uses plenty of others more conventionally 'poetic.' Whatever prompted the Prime Minister, he made a good choice from the very respectable group of poets available; a choice that could not have been easy. The Times welcomed the appointment and struck only one false note in mentioning Spenser as one of the previous holders of the office, a remark which can hardly be pardoned for it was made at a time when Professor Broadus Poets Laureate (which has all the answers) was readily available.

John Edward Masefield was born at Ledbury, in Herefordshire, on June 1, 1878. His childhood would seem to have been disturbed and unhappy and at thirteen he joined the Conway training ship, proceeding thence to sea. After some years of mixed fortunes he began to write. He made steady progress in journalism and worked for The Speaker under J. L. Hammond, and was also for a time with The Manchester Guardian.

In 1902 he published Salt Water Ballads which contained several of the lyrics that have become so widely known as to be almost a part of that great body of anonymous poetry of which 'everyone' has a stock -- such lyrics as 'Sea-Fever,' 'Tewkesbury Road,' and the dedicatory lines, 'A Consecration.' This was the first of a series of collections of shorter poems which is happily not yet completed.1

____________________
1
One collection, Midsummer Night ( 1928) calls for separate mention. It is a collection of narrative pieces loosely linked, on King Arthur. Masefield's way is his own, and the reader of these graphic poems will nowhere be closely reminded of Tennyson. In our day three poets have written notably on King Arthur -- Laurence Binyon, Charles Williams and

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