”With a cargo of ivory/And apes and peacocks…”


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.

—John Masefield

Chatter Random Friday

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. “…ivory, and apes, and peacocks…” I thought it was Shakespeare, but it isn’t.
    It’s I Kings, 10:22, “For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram; once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.”
    What gorgeous language! This poem reminds me of “Ithaka,” by C. P. Cavafy, one of my favorites.


  2. I have loved this poem since I was little – my Mum used to read it to me (not that we were a poetry reading household then apart from ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’,but it crept in from somewhere! And so did Masefield’s Sea Fever.)
    I think Masefield saw the beauty in the British coaster,and the English Channel in March – that’s why it is in the poem alongside Ninevah,and the tropics and the stately galleon. 🙂


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