Welcome to The British Literary Ballads Archive, a site dedicated to a unique genre of literary imitations of traditional ballads. The site contains a growing archive of over 700 poems, as well as short biographical sketches of the poets who wrote them.

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John Masefield (1878-1967)

English poet, born at Ledbury, Herefordshire on 1 June 1878. At the age of six, his mother died. In 1891 his father was hospitalized with a mental breakdown, and he died the following year. The boy was taken care of by his aunt. At the age of 13, he was assigned to a sea-cadet ship for training for a life at sea. It was aboard the ship that his enthusiasm for story-telling grew. In 1894 at the age of 16, he boarded a four- masted ship bound for Chile. His first voyage brought severe sea sickness. The following year, on a ship bound for New York City, the urge to be a writer overtook him, and in New York he deserted the ship. Masefield lived in that country for a while like a vagrant. In 1897 he returned to England and met W. B. Yeats. They went on to become great friends for the rest of their lives.

Masefield's first collected work, Salt-Water Ballads, full of his own experience at sea, was published in 1902. Harry Blamires applauds the lively expressions in his ballads:

His Salt Water Ballads (1902) and Ballads and Poems (1910) contain a cluster of much-anthologised poems, rhythmically and rhetorically alive, some of them of the fresh-air-and-open-road variety, like 'The West Wind' and 'Tewkesbury Road', and some of them hailing the virtues of salt sea and saltier seamen in heart-felt acclaim or nautical bluster, like 'Sea-Fever' and 'A Ballad of John Silver'. [Harry Blamires, Twentieth Century English Literature, 2nd ed. (London, 1982) 13 - 14]

In 1930, upon the death of Robert Bridges, Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate. (H. N.)


1.The Ballad of Sir Bors
2.Cap on Head: A Tale of the O’Neil
3.Cape Horn Gospel I
4.Cape Horn Gospel II
6.Mother Carey
7.One of the Bo'sun's Yarns
8."Port of Many Ships"
10.The Yarn of the Loch Achray