Mar. 1, 2003

The Word

by John Masefield

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Word," by John Masefield.

The Word

My friend, my bonny friend, when we are old,
    And hand in hand go tottering down the hill,
May we be rich in love's refinèd gold,
    May love's gold coin be current with us still.

May love be sweeter for the vanished days,
    And your most perfect beauty still as dear
As when your troubled singer stood at gaze
    In the dear March of a most sacred year.

May what we are be all we might have been,
    And that potential, perfect, O my friend,
And may there still be many sheafs to glean
    In our love's acre, comrade, till the end.

And may we find when ended is the page
Death but a tavern on our pilgrimage.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Jim Crace, born in Hertfordshire, England (1946). His first novel, The Gift of Stones (1988) was set in a Stone Age village famous for its ability to work stone into tools of exquisite quality until the discovery of bronze threatens the villagers' traditional way of life.

It's the birthday of poet Robert Hass, born in San Francisco, California (1942). He is known for his translations of the works of Czeslaw Milosz.

It's the birthday of novelist Judith Rossner, born in New York City (1935). She received critical acclaim for her 1983 novel, August, but is most famous for an earlier work, Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1975), a work that was inspired by the true-life murder of a teacher by a man she met in a singles' bar. She was first hired by Esquire magazine to write an article about the murder, but the magazine's lawyers killed the story.

It's the birthday of the man who gave us Mad magazine, publisher William M(axwell) Gaines, born in New York City (1922). In the late 1940s, Gaines presided over his father's comic book empire, EC Comics, which published such classics as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear. In 1952, he ventured into satire and irreverence when he began publishing Mad magazine.

It's the birthday of poet Richard Wilbur, born in New York City (1921).

It's the birthday of poet, novelist, and critic Howard Nemerov, born in New York City (1920).

It's the birthday of biographer and critic (Giles) Lytton Strachey, born in London (1880). He was one of the leading members of the Bloomsbury Group and is credited with having revolutionized the art of writing biography. He rejected the dull scholarship of the nineteenth century and decided to write books that were lively, critical, witty, and artistic. He said, "Discretion is not the better part of biography."

It's the birthday of composer Frederic Chopin, born near Warsaw, Poland (1810), the son of a French émigré schoolteacher and a cultured Polish mother. A child prodigy, Chopin played the piano in public when he was only 8 years old. He began to compose soon after. As a pianist, Chopin was somewhat left to his own devices, as there were no piano teachers of note in Warsaw. Chopin was well aware of his own originality and his style baffled other pianists of the time. He expressed this style in his Twenty-four Etudes, Opp. 10 and 25.

It's the birthday of novelist Ralph (Waldo) Ellison, born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1914). He went to New York's Harlem as a young man, where he met the poet Langston Hughes and the novelist Richard Wright, who encouraged Ellison to become a writer. Growing up as a black man in Oklahoma City, Ellison did not recall encountering prejudice or segregation. He did encounter it in New York and he sat down one day and typed the words, "I am an invisible man," not knowing that these would lead him to writing his great novel of 1952, Invisible Man.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show