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Previously unpublished poems by the Poet Laureate John Masefield (1878-1967)

This exhibition includes three unpublished, handwritten works by the Laureate John Masefield (1878–1967), given by the poet to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother) between 1937-40.

The poems reveal Masefield's close and affectionate relationship with the Royal Family.

A Prayer for the King's Majesty upon his coronation marks the coronation of King George VI in May 1937.

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Song of the Birds for The Queen's Majesty, written in 1937, also celebrates the coronation, but focuses on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

As well as a formal calligraphic version, Masefield presented the Queen with a more intimate copy, written in his own hand and beautifully illustrated with vignettes of ships.

The poem has an air of informality, focusing on the return of migratory birds in spring:

Be near her in the midnight long; Uplift the moonrise of your song; To bring her peace, and make all troubles cease.

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Lines for January 20th was composed in 1940 for the fourth anniversary of the death of King George V, father of King George VI, who was on the throne when Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate in 1930 and for whom Masefield wrote many poems.

It communicates a sombre and quiet sense of the poet's own mortality, as well as that of his erstwhile monarch:

Beyond the river-side; The frozen fields stretch wide; To where the beech-clumps bide; Leafless and still; In snow upon the hill; I think of One who died.

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Dr Philip W Errington, Masefield Scholar and Archivist of The John Masefield Society, said, 'Masefield’s tenure as Poet Laureate covered the abdication of Edward VIII, the Second World War, the death of two Kings, the Coronation of the present Queen and the birth of Prince Charles.

His 'official' Laureateship verse was published in The Times and even included a poem on the assassination of John F Kennedy. However these newly discovered poems reveal a very personal side to the role of Laureate. It is rare for entirely unknown and unrecorded poems by Masefield to come to light.'

To view some of the other works going on display as part of 'Poetry for the Palace', visit Explore the Exhibition.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.