1902 | London


John Masefield looks inside a ship.

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smokestack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig lead,
Firewood, ironware, and cheap tin trays.


John Masefield

From Ballads. At fifteen in 1894, Masefield set out on his only complete voyage as a sailor, a thirteen-week trek that ended with him recovering from a nervous breakdown in a hospital in Chile. He deserted his next trip to stay in New York City to work odd jobs, then published his first book of poetry in London in 1902. “Cargoes” appeared in his second collection, published the following year. In 1930 he became poet laureate of England and remained so until his death in 1967.