What is the line by line explanation of the poem "Laugh and Be Merry" by John Masefield?
The title of the poem could be a reference to one of a few Biblical passages, one being "A man hath no better thing under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry" (Ecclesiastes 8:15).
In the first stanza, the message is that it is better to laugh and be positive ("better the world with a song"); better than being negative. If there is some injustice in the world, stand against it (second line). Enjoy life because time is short and honor the proud history of mankind.
The second stanza states that God made the Earth with joy and mirth in mind. Life is to be enjoyed.
In the third stanza, we are told to enjoy the grandeur of the day's and night's skies. We are to engage in the world: "Laugh, battle, work, and drink of the wine outpoured / In the dear green earth, the sign of the joy of the Lord."
The final stanza continues with the theme that we should embrace and enjoy life while we can. Live as if we are all siblings: "like brothers akin." Be happy and positive until the end of your days; get the most out of life: "Glad till the dancing stops, and the lilt of the music ends. / Laugh till the game is played; and be you merry, my friends."
I'll explain the first stanza here. Hopefully, having the first few lines explained will give some context and help explain the rest of the poem. Also, remember that you can always look up individual words that you find strange or confusing because they often have secondary, archaic meanings.
"Laugh and be merry, remember, better the world with a song": Remember that the "song" of laughter and happiness will make the world a better place. It's implied here that happiness is more helpful to the world than sadness or negativity.
"Better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong": The world is a better place when justice is served to those who have done wrong. This line relates to the first and implies that laughter and happiness are ways to seek justice.
"Laugh, for the time is brief, a thread the length of a span": Laugh because our lives are very short, like threads that are merely the length of a span, which can mean either a very short period of time, or the arch or part of a bridge that extends between its supports.
"Laugh and be proud to belong to the old proud pageant of man": Laugh (again—this poem thinks that laughter is really important!), and remember that you belong to all of humanity. This line perhaps encourages the reader to look at the big picture—life isn't just about you, or any one person, but all of humanity and history.
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