In the Mill
IN the middle 1890’s young John Masefield, after an interlude of odd-jobbing about Manhattan, worked for two years in an immense carpet mill in Yonkers. His first job there was a not too exacting semi-skilled one, and his muscles soon learned to perform its motions while his mind traveled unhampered in the realms of gold. For his nights and Sundays were now going into the first sustained, comprehensive reading he had ever been privileged to do, and it was opening to him a universe a thousand times as real as that in which, for some sixty hours a week, he straightened little tin tubes and arranged complicated frames of spools in their proper order. He read the books he had heard of, and then the other books casually mentioned in them; the books that booksellers happened to mention, and then more books by their authors. There came the night of nights that brought him to Keats. ‘Everything that I had read until then seemed like paving-stones on the path leading to this Paradise. . . . I knew then that . . . my law was to follow poetry, even if I died of it. Who could mind dying for a thing so fair?’ His record of these two years is a little book but a great one. What makes it great is the uncalculated disclosure of a noble simplicity of mind and heart. In every line and between the lines of this limpid personal record the discerning will find the quality, will take the measure, of him who was presently to be the poet of The Everlasting Mercy.