Poems that would make great books #1- Cargoes

Here's a poem for mad March days that we like very much --Cargoes, by John Masefield. There's something about the emphatic downbeat, especially in the last verse, that has great appeal to my boys (perhaps because emphatic downbeats are such a natural part of their lives). And the words are magical. Even if you don't know, for instance, what exactly gold moidores are, it doesn't mater.

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 smoke stack,
Butting through the channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rail, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Wouldn't this be a great picture book? I see each verse on its own page,with a lavish double page illustration, followed by a page, or several pages, of non-fiction gloss, explaining it all, with maps of trade routes and cut away pictures of the ships and explanations of the cargoes etc. etc.

John Masefield was also the author of two great children's books published in the 1930s-The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights. They are both stories of the magical adventures of orphaned Kay Harker as he tries to foil the evil intentions of a local coven of witches (one of whom is his governess, Sylvia Daisy Pouncer), find the great treasure his ancestor lost in The Midnight Folk and keep the Box of Delights from falling into their hands in the second book. There is a very charming cat featured, lots of action,talking pictures, mysterious journeys. How could one not warm to a book that opens with a mysterious stranger approaching on a snowy night, to tell you that "the Wolves are Running!" (first chapter of B. of D.). Sadly, they aren't in print anymore, but if your library has them, or you see a cheap copy, go for it!

Here's one cover for a paperback edition of The Midnight Folk.

1 comment:

  1. I love that poem! I first read it in junior high and have seen it very rarely since. The words are so delicious.


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