Sailing From Romanticism to Realism

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EL237

Alright, haven't read the chapter yet, but I prefer to write about the poem without having read what they think it means.

"Cargoes" by John Masefield describes three different ships bearing cargo from three different time periods. Each ship, is used to symbolize a time-period, or the attitudes of that period. Based on the connotation of the words used to describe each, Masefields oppionon of each era is pretty obvious.

The first ship is an ancient Quinquereme, (an massive galley-like ship with oars), sailing in the Medditerainian. It is carrying interesting and exotic cargo, such as "apes and peacocks" and "sweet white wine," and is on its way, to "sunny Palestine." This image is very romantic, and shown in a positive light.

The second is a Spanish galleon in Carribean, carrying all symbols of wealth. It is likewise offered in a positive, somewhat romantic light as it is "dipping through the Tropics by the palm green shores." However, despite the seemingly positive portrayal, the cargo of all valuables might suggest something about greed and commercialism.  

The final image offers a stark contrast. It is a "Dirty British coaster" "Butting through the channel in the mad March days." It's cargo is all symbolic of industry; Coal and various metal. (It also has firewood, which offers a nice contrast against the sandlewood and cedarwood of the first ship).

Based on this, the symbolism I'm getting is that the romantic past was overtaken by commercialism, which lead to the modern, ugly industrialism. (Which is burning former things of beauty, if the wood is a significant symbol) This makes the poem a romantic reaction against realism.

Ah, apparently Roberts didn't pick up on the bit I had about the second stanza's leading to the third. He also missed the bit about the wood. Oh, well, better luck next time.

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