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 rails, pig lead,
Firewood, iron ware, and cheap tin trays.
We're back with John Masefield again this week, following on from my Box of Delights last week. I learned his poem 'Cargoes' at school and the rhythm of the verse rolls along just like the waves. The description of the three vessels has stayed with me, and was the first thing which came into my mind when Alan suggested boats as a possible theme for this week's Sepia Saturday.
|The Thames Steamboat Company's paddle steamer 'Mermaid', National Maritime Museum c1900|
I was quite taken with the picture of 'Mermaid' but even more by this one. Now there's a poem waiting to be written!
|Sail and Steam. Changing Tides. The Museum of Hartlepool|
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
Evidently, although he was a poor sailor, his love of the sea and ships was undiminished. There's no room to write the details of his life here, but he went on to become British Poet Laureate and garnered doctorates from Yale and Harvard universities, in America, and from Oxford University, among many others, in England. He continued to be a colourful and interesting character, numbering bee-keeping, goatherding and poultry-keeping amongst his pursuits. He continued his duties as Laureate into old age, publishing his last book at the age of 88. He died in 1967 and his ashes rest in Poet's Corner, in Westminster Abbey.
I can't let you steam away without sharing this remarkable three-minute movie clip of a 1900 paddle steamer, 'Brighton Queen', pulling into a jetty. There is an interesting parade of disembarking passengers, some of whom wave to the camera, and one gentleman even doffs his cap. It could even be the young John Masefield, gathering more material for the book he was about to publish.
If you've found your sea-legs by now, roll over to Sepia Saturday to find what other contributors have made of the prompt. If you have a love of old photos, or are just overtaken by waves of nostalgia you could even join in the fun of our Facebook group.