Other Literary Forms
John Masefield is noted for his lyric and narrative poetry, and because of poems such as “Sea Fever” and “Cargoes,” he will continue to be read. For more than sixty years, however, he was prolific in many other genres as well. Between 1902 and 1966, Masefield wrote more than forty volumes of poetry or verse plays and more than twenty novels, in addition to short stories, essays, reviews, biographies, historical works, addresses, and prefaces, totaling about fifty books in all. Masefield’s first book of verse was Salt-Water Ballads (1902), and his narrative poem The Everlasting Mercy (1911) caused a sensation with its realistic diction. Masefield wrote eight other book-length narrative poems, the most important being The Window in the Bye Street (1912), The Daffodil Fields (1913), Reynard the Fox: Or, The Ghost Heath Run (1919), Right Royal (1920), and King Cole (1921). His sea poems and ballads are about the life of the common sailor, and his narrative verse describes the lot of the rural folk of the Malvern Hills in his native Herefordshire.
Masefield’s fiction is varied and uneven; his most popular and successful novels were his books about the sea and strange lands, written in the vein of Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson—tales such as Captain Margaret (1908), The Bird of Dawning (1933), and Victorious Troy (1935). Although not a great critic, Masefield was a thoroughly professional man of letters who turned out well-focused articles and reviews by the hundreds, as well as book-length studies. In the field of history, Masefield gave accounts of World War I debacles in Gallipoli (1916) and The Battle of the Somme (1919). He told the story of the evacuation of Dunkirk in The Nine Days’ Wonder (1941). In addition, Masefield wrote about maritime history in Sea Life in Nelson’s Time (1905), On the Spanish Main (1906), and The Conway from Her Foundation to the Present Day (1933). Masefield’s autobiographical works include In the Mill (1941), New Chum (1944), So Long to Learn (1952), and Grace Before Ploughing (1966).