Masefield, John 1878–1967
Masefield was an English poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, critic, and children's book author. He was often drawn to the sea as a theme for his poetry, and it is perhaps for the poem "Sea Fever" that he is best remembered. Masefield was awarded the Order of Merit in 1935 and was named Poet Laureate of England in 1930. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 19-20; obituary, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors Permanent Series, Vol. 2.)
L. A. G. Strong
John Masefield was a copious writer, and one of the most uneven whom our time can show. His official position as Poet Laureate stimulated him to produce, conscientiously and dutifully, a number of morceaux, the poetic equivalent of journalism, works of which the chief interest was the occasion that evoked them. (p. 5)
The more closely one comes to consider any aspect of Masefield's work, the more deeply does one realize that the man is, essentially and all the time, a poet. Even at their flattest and most dutiful, the worst of the occasional pieces have style and technical polish. They are well groomed. (p. 6)
Love and knowledge of the English countryside were innate. The sea and seafaring folk had been stamped upon the impressionable years of his adolescence. He had learned to fend for himself, and to observe people who worked hard for their living by earning his own amongst them: and, at the right time, the right reading had come his way in a book store, and the future Laureate had drunk of a pure English spring of inspiration, in a country which isolated him, and so increased its power. Strongest of all, his youth gave him a life-long and passionate sympathy with the under-dog, the unprivileged, the victim, the man or woman or child (or animal) who is ''ard done by'. (p. 7)
[Masefield's] masterpiece, Reynard the Fox, [is] the finest English narrative poem of the century, and one of...
(The entire section is 649 words.)
[Masefield's] chief dedication is to what he feels is the English spirit and to the interpretation to the world of that spirit, the land and the heritage from which it springs, and the men and words and deeds that it inspires. (p. 15)
From Salt-Water Ballads (1902) to Grace Before Ploughing (1966), there is frequent evidence of [Masefield's] interest in the early years of Britain. In several poems he combines historical reminiscence with his favorite theme of the persistence of human influence in those places where human existence has been especially violent or tragic or beautiful. (p. 22)
In his retelling of the tales of Tristan and of Arthur, Masefield does not follow Malory or any other Arthurian storyteller completely. He even adds new details, new motives, new characterizations of his own, borrowing and inventing freely in the medieval tradition. (p. 27)
Although he shows corruption in medieval government in a manner that constantly suggests modern parallels, Masefield's picture of Arthurian Britain and its people is generally a stirring and attractive one. (p. 30)
Much of Masefield's work, particularly the two early collections of short stories and several later books of verse, shows evidence of his interest in folklore as well as in his nation's history and her heroic legends. (p. 34)
In the second part of [the poem] "August, 1914," Masefield...
(The entire section is 2015 words.)