Sonnets by John Masefield

Sonnet XLII

Over the church door they moved a stone,
And there, unguessed, forgotten, mortared up,
Lay the priest’s cell where he had lived alone.
There was his ashy hearth, his drinking cup,
There was the window whence he saw the Host,
The God who’s beauty quickened bread and wine;
The skeleton of a religion lost,
The ghostless bones of what had been divine.
Oh many a time the dusty masons come
Knocking their trowels in the stony brain
To cells where perished priests had once a home,
Or where devout brows pressed the window pane,
Watching the thing made God, the God whose bones
Bind underground our soul’s foundation stones.

Sonnet L

There is no God, as I was taught in youth,
Though each, according to his stature, builds
Some covered shrine for what he thinks the truth,
Which day by day his reddest heartblood gilds.
There is no God; but death, the clasping sea,
In which we move like fish, deep over deep,
Made of men’s souls that bodies have set free,
Floods to a Justice, though it seems asleep.
There is no God; but still, behind the veil,
The hurt thing works, out of its agony.
Still like the given cruse that did not fail
Return the pennies to passers-by.
There is no God: but we, who breathe the air,
Are God ourselves, and touch God everywhere.

Sonnet LXI

In emptiest furthest heaven where no stars are,
Perhaps some planet of our master sun
Still rolls an unguessed orbit round its star,
Unthought, unseen, unknown of anyone.
Roving dead space according to its law,
Casting our light on burnt-out suns and blind,
Singing in the frozen void its word of awe,
One wandering thought in all that idiot mind.
And, in the span of many a thousand year,
Passing through heaven its influence may arouse
Beauty unguessed in those who habit here,
And men may rise with glory on their brows
And feel new life like fire, and see the old
Fall from them dead, the bronze’s broken mould.

Sonnet LXX
Let that which is to come be as it may,
Darkness, extinction, justice, life intense,
The flies are happy in the summer day,
Flies will be happy many summers hence.
Time with his antique breeds that build the Sphinx,
Time with her men to come who’s wings will tower,
Poured and will pour, not as the wise man thinks,
But with blind force, to each his little hour.
And when the hour has struck, comes death or change,
Which whether good or ill we cannot tell,
But the blind planet will wander through her range
Bearing men like us who will serve her well.
The sun will rise, the winds that ever move
Will blow our dust that once were men in love.

A hundred years ago they quarried for the stone here;
The carts came through the wood by the track still plain;
The drills show in the rock where the blasts were blown here
They show up dark after rain.

Then the last cart of stone went away through the wood,
To build the great house for some April of a woman,
Till her beauty stood in stone, as her man’s thought made it good
And the dumb rock was made human.

The house still stands, but the April of its glory
Is gone, long since, with the beauty that has gone;
She wandered away west, it is an old sad story:
It is best not talked upon.

And the man has gone, too, but the quarry that he made,
Whenever April comes as it came in old time,
Is a dear delight to the man who loves a maid
For the primrose comes from the Lime….

And the Blackbird builds below the catkin shaking,
And the sweet white violets are beauty in the blood,
And daffodils are there, and the blackthorn blossom breaking
Is a wild white beauty in bud.


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