John Masefield

John Masefield

John Masefield

John Masefield

Excerpt

Every copious writer is uneven. Unevenness, provided the output is large, is often a sign of genius. This is true of every kind of creative work. Sibelius, creator of the mighty symphonies, has also produced great numbers of salon pieces, morceaux , of which Sir Arnold Bax remarks despairingly that they are not even vulgar. It is admitted nowadays that not all of Shakespeare's work is on the highest level and the same is true of lesser artists.

Now it would obviously be stupid and uncritical to judge Shakespeare or Sibelius or anybody else on the strength of his minor work. It is the best work which matters, the peaks of genius, the uplands of high talent. We are not concerned with the failures, or with the successes cast in a small mould. Sibelius may have written supremely effective salon pieces, admirably appropriate programme music. Such smaller works serve their occasion and have their day. We are concerned with what survives its occasion.

John Masefield is a copious writer, and one of the most uneven whom our time can show. His official position as Poet Laureate has stimulated him to produce, conscientiously and dutifully, a number of morceaux , the poetic equivalent of journalism, works of which the chief interest has been the occasion that evoked them. The volume of his collected poems is corpulent; he has written novels, and a number of other works in prose. The theatre knows him, and he has been, in memorable instances, a historian. Altogether, the volume of his work is far too large to be considered intelligently in a pamphlet. For this reason I propose to make an arbitrary selection, picking out certain works which seem to me to represent, at its most sensitive and vigorous, the intermittent genius of one of the most lovable of English writers. Some of these works will be of the highest class. Others will show, even if imperfectly, gifts of the highest class, and sympathies so generous as to warm and quicken the work that surrounds them.

I shall pick out from the poems one masterpiece, Reynard the Fox . . .

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