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Mrs. Leopoldine Masarai with Her Daughters at the Artist's Studio by Hans Tichy (1896)
I was first introduced to John Masefield's poetry by my fourth grade teacher, who had us copy out poetry for penmanship exercises. Since my penmanship was never a strong point—like Charles Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, I "prized" the "power of doing anything with quickness," since that was the only calligraphic skill of which I was a "possessor"—I was usually done early and could roam over the poetry, catching my tongue on the rhythms and memorizing the bits and pieces that lingered there. Of all the poetry we dutifully copied out that school year, I only remember Masefield's "Sea Fever," alongside Carroll's, "Father William," a rather interesting duo.
Poet, John Masefield
Masefield, the Poet Laureate of Great Britain, would pass away right near the end of that fourth grade year—forty-four years ago next week—but my teacher had only told us that he wrote of the sea and as an untraveled ten-year-old, I didn't feel a great urgency to "go down to the sea again," however much I admired Masefield's poem. It wasn't until I was married that I discovered the Masefield beyond the "wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking," and came upon his narrative poem, "The Everlasting Mercy," which has become a favorite—a portion if it inscribed along the top of our upstairs hallway.
It's a poem filled with wonderfully quotable quotes, but two seem particularly appropriate to Mother's Day, so here they are dedicated to loving women everywhere:
To get the whole world out of bed And washed, and dressed, and warmed, and fed, To work, and back to bed again, Believe me, Saul, costs worlds of pain.
And he who gives a child a treat Makes joy-bells ring in Heaven's street, And he who gives a child a home Build palaces in Kingdom come and she who gives a baby birth Brings Saviour Christ again to Earth.