John Masefield, Poet Laureate, in Australia 1934
A recent review of ‘An evening with Bryn Terfel’ at the Sydney Opera House mentioned that Bryn Terfel , introducing song settings of John Masefield, was ’sure John Masefield would have loved Sydney harbour’ . The reviewer, Peter McCallum notes that John Masefield did in fact vist Sydney in 1934, as ‘the National Library's splendid Trove database shows”.Quite a bit of his journey can be retraced through the digitised newspaper articles of the day.
John Masefield gave a reading of his poems in the Great Hall of Sydney University on 21 November 1934 and again the following day in the Sydney University Union Hall. In Sydney he was photographed with C.E.W Bean, the official Commonwealth War Historian.
Some of the wonders of Australia which amazed him included the miles of giant gums,great open plains, shearing sheds and 'charming people' but perhaps 'the thing that lingers so lovingly in his heart is the song of the magpie', 'the very soul of the Australian scene'.
While in Canberra, he and the Governor General, Sir Iasaac Isaacs, laid the foundation stones of the new National Library. Masefield paid tribute to the National Library a ‘lodestar for scholars of the future’. After this, ‘the Poet Laureate was entertained by the Federal Cabinet at luncheon and at afternoon tea, at which all members of Parliament and their wives were present’.
He was a guest in Melbourne at the centenary celebrations. He was thrilled by the Victoria forests and became fascinated with boomerang throwing: 'I still stand carefully from under when delivering a boomerang'. He expressed his desire to see the 'Melbourne Cup as a spectacle not as a business'. Confirmation in Trove that he actually saw Peter Pan win the 1934 Melbourne Cup eludes me.
'The Shakespeare Society was fortunate in being able to celebrate its jubilee with Mr. Masefield, who gave his Romanes lecture on Shakespeare— a most sympathetic and vivid picture of the young Shakespeare and his England.' He addressed pupils from public schools in the Melbourne Town Hall.
An etching of John Masefield was done by artist Norma Bull who met him during his time in Melbourne in 1934. He was ‘much impressed with her art’.
In Adelaide for just a day he was asked by a woman for a memento. Offering an autograph, she asked for something else. He drew her a ship, in a lightning sketch, and signed it.
He read poetry to an audience at the Albert Hall, Canberra under the auspices of the Society of Art and Literature on Friday 23 November telling guests that his Australian visit was a ‘ delight beyond telling’.
Mrs Masefield expressed strong opinions about cooking, gardening, schooling, mining and alcohol. She thought the 8 hour day too long for the miners she visited in Kalgoorlie and worried about them getting enough sunlight. She admired the beauty of the natural flora, preferring the bottle brush to the flannel flower. She commented that Australians were ‘physically beautiful specimens”; John Masefield called them ‘people of the sun’.
They crossed the country by rail after visiting Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne to join their ship the 'Orontes' at Fremantle.
Last edited by mweight [NLA]; 14-05-2013 at 08:54 AM.