11 August 2016

Cargoes

I have known this poem since I was ten years old. Sitting in the Junior 4 classroom of my village primary school one grey February afternoon, I was transported. I had no idea what a "quinquireme" was and could not have found "Nineveh" or "Ophir" on a map if I had tried but it didn't matter. I just loved the exotic sound of those words and the way in which the rhythm of the poem changed from verse to verse, echoing the progress of three very different vessels...

Cargoes

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, amythysts,
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-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

by John Masefield

23 comments:

  1. I was going to say I hadn't heard that poem before, until I got to the last verse. For some reason that is the part I remember.

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    1. Probably that is the point at which the teacher threw a blackboard rubber at you and yelled, "Wake up Susan!"

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  2. I have loved this poem for a long time, in spite of the fact that my father once said to me, "You can't love anything that can't love you back; you just like it very much." In 2012 I wrote a blogpost called Why I am glad John Masefield wrote "Cargoes" before the New International Version of the Bible (NIV) was produced. You will have to read it to find out.

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    1. P.S. - When my father spoke, you could see the semi-colons.

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    2. Well I never! You had already considered "Cargoes"... Did your father have semi-colons in place of teeth?

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  3. Love this poem - it's so evocative of a world long gone.

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    1. I can almost hear the oars of the quinquireme as it glides towards Nineveh.

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    2. Sad that we can no longer go along for the ride.

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  4. I will take one each of every item mentioned in the first two stanzas, if you please, Mr. Pudding.

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    1. A barbary ape is already winging his way to you via FedEx. A peacock will follow. I am not sure that the mountains of Colorado will be the best environment for these creatures.

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  5. One of my favourites too YP

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    1. You have discerning tastes ma'am.

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  6. First time ever that I have come across this poem, but then of course I am not familiar with the poets of your country, and their works. I can imagine very well how the words left such an impression on your young mind. It was similar for me with Heinrich Heine's Ballad of King Nebukadnezar, which sends a shiver down my spine even now, just thinking about it.

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    1. I will look out for a translation of "The Ballad of King Nebuchadnezzar". The Google God may help.

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    2. Sorry - I got it mixed up (just goes to show how the lack of sleep from several days in a row affects me!). It is not Nebukadnezar/Nebuchadnezzar/Nabucco, but Belsazar/Belsatzar. The poet is Heinrich Heine, and the ballad was written in 1820.
      If you click here and scroll down on the page, you'll find the English translation of the ballad.

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  7. I've never read or heard of it before this....or, at least, I don't remember every reading it prior to this very minute....or those couple of minutes just passed!

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    1. It is nice to read this poem aloud - not just in your head.

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  8. It's a new one for me, too, although I'm not very well read when it comes to poetry.

    I like the imagery.

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  9. And what's a moidore?

    I don't think I've ever heard this poem, but it's an interesting commentary on the industrial age!

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  10. Ah, I remember that poem. I was fascinated by all the exotic places and the goods mentioned. It may be an indicator of just how old I am that I remember it!

    Alphie

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.