Masefield, John mās– [key], 1878–1967, English poet. He went to sea as a youth and later spent several years in the United States. In 1897 he returned to England and was on the staff of the Manchester Guardian. His first volumes of poetry, Salt-Water Ballads (1902), containing
Cargoes,and Ballads (1903), earned him the title
Poet of the Sea.It was, however, for his realistic, long narrative poems—The Everlasting Mercy (1911), The Widow in the Bye Street (1912), Dauber (1913), and Reynard the Fox (1919)—that he won his greatest fame. He was also a playwright and novelist of some note. His plays, written in both verse and prose, include The Tragedy of Nan (1909), The Tragedy of Pompey the Great (1910), and The Coming of Christ (1928). Among his novels are Multitude and Solitude (1909), Sard Harker (1924), and The Bird of Dawning (1933). Masefield is the author of several literary studies, of which his William Shakespeare (1911) is the most notable. Other works include adventure stories for boys and two war sketches, Gallipoli (1916) and The Nine Days Wonder (1941), and the posthumous volume of poetry In Glad Thanksgiving (1968). He was poet laureate from 1930 until his death and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1935.
See his autobiographical works In the Mill (1941), So Long to Learn (1952), and Grace Before Ploughing (1966); see biographies by S. Sternlicht (1978) and J. Dwyer (1988); bibliography by G. Handley-Taylor (1960).
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