Poem Activity

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Cargoes

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Poem Activity

Have fun with the poem by trying this...

In this poem the speaker imagines a whole history of cargo ships carrying different things across the seas. Each verse gives us a different kind of ship in a different time in history and a different place, with different cargo.

Some of the words might be unfamiliar when you first read the poem. Don’t worry too much about their meanings or whether you say them correctly, just enjoy their sounds and the exotic impression they create. How are the words and pictures in the final verse different?

Now you have tasted the words for yourself, you might like to listen to this video of the actress Joanna Lumley reading the poem. She also explains what a quinquireme is.

Think about the enormous container ships on the world's oceans today - can you write an extra verse for this poem which creates a vivid picture of modern cargoes?

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Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rail, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Cargoes

by John Masefield