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Beauty -- John Masefield

       
(Poem #695) Beauty
 I have seen dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills
 Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain:
 I have seen the lady April bringing the daffodils,
 Bringing the springing grass and the soft warm April rain.

 I have heard the song of the blossoms and the old chant of the sea,
 And seen strange lands from under the arched white sails of ships;
 But the loveliest thing of beauty God ever has shown to me,
 Are her voice, and her hair, and eyes, and the dear red curve of her lips.
-- John Masefield
As I have noted before, one of the outstanding features of Masefield's
poetry is the sense of beauty that permeates them; I had, therefore, high
hopes for a poem he explicitly titled 'Beauty'.

However, the poem proved sadly disappointing in that respect. Oh, it's a
nice enough poem - certainly worth a read (as is most of Masefield). It
misses, though, the sheer magic of 'Sea Fever' or 'Cargoes', the music of
phrases like 'dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores', or the
quiet vividness of poems like 'The West Wind'.

The poem has interesting echoes in some of his other pieces - compare "and
April's in the West Wind, and daffodils" (The West Wind), the sea and ship
imagery from a number of poems, and, most interestingly, the ending of
'Roadways', where he describes his road to the sea as travelling "in quest
of that one beauty/ God put me here to find". It is true that a lot of
Masefield's poems have recurrent themes and images (and are none the worse
for that); still, it is an interesting (albeit far-fetched) conjecture that,
in one of his rare love poems, Masefield is deliberately examining some of
the things he has lauded in other poems, and stating that even these fall
short of 'her voice, and her hair, and eyes, and the dear red curve of her
lips'.

Afterthought:

 I was reminded today of Yvette Sangiorgio's comment (on Poem #651) that
 knowing the date when a poem is written is often vital to its understanding
 - indeed, knowing which volume of Masefield's this poem appeared in would
 have been most helpful. Sadly, I was unable to find the information
 anywhere online.

Links:

  I am reminded of Kipling's "The Sea and the Hills"           (Poem #29)
  and, in a roundabout sort of way, Shakespeare's "My
  Mistress's Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun"                    (Poem #44)

The theme itself is a common one, and there are doubtless several other
poems that echo one aspect of it or another.

We've run a few other Masefield poems; you can find a biography at poem #27

-martin

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