John Masefield, Poems (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1945): 42-43.
1Spanish waters, Spanish waters, you are ringing in my ears,
2Like a slow sweet piece of music from the grey forgotten years;
3Telling tales, and beating tunes, and bringing weary thoughts to me
4Of the sandy beach at Muertos, where I would that I could be.
5There's a surf breaks on Los Muertos, and it never stops to roar,
6And it's there we came to anchor, and it's there we went ashore,
7Where the blue lagoon is silent amid snags of rotting trees,
8Dropping like the clothes of corpses cast up by the seas.
9We anchored at Los Muertos when the dipping sun was red,
10We left her half-a-mile to sea, to west of Nigger Head;
11And before the mist was on the Cay, before the day was done,
12We were all ashore on Muertos with the gold that we had won.
13We bore it through the marshes in a half-score battered chests,
14Sinking, in the sucking quagmires to the sunburn on our breasts,
15Heaving over tree-trunks, gasping, damning at the flies and heat,
16Longing for a long drink, out of silver, in the ship's cool lazareet.
17The moon came white and ghostly as we laid the treasure down,
18There was gear there'd make a beggarman as rich as Lima Town,
19Copper charms and silver trinkets from the chests of Spanish crews,
20Gold doubloons and double moidores, louis d'ors and portagues,
21Clumsy yellow-metal earrings from the Indians of Brazil,
22Uncut emeralds out of Rio, bezoar stones from Guayaquil;
23Silver, in the crude and fashioned, pots of old Arica bronze,
24Jewels from the bones of Incas desecrated by the Dons.
25We smoothed the place with mattocks, and we took and blazed the tree,
26Which marks yon where the gear is hid that none will ever see,
27And we laid aboard the ship again, and south away we steers,
28Through the loud surf of Los Muertos which is beating in my ears.
29I'm the last alive that knows it. All the rest have gone their ways
30Killed, or died, or come to anchor in the old Mulatas Cays,
31And I go singing, fiddling, old and starved and in despair,
32And I know where all that gold is hid, if I were only there.
33It 's not the way to end it all. I'm old, and nearly blind,
34And an old man's past 's a strange thing, for it never leaves his mind.
35And I see in dreams, awhiles, the beach, the sun's disc dipping red,
36And the tall ship, under topsails, swaying in past Nigger Head.
37I'd be glad to step ashore there. Glad to take a pick and go
38To the lone blazed coco-palm tree in the place no others know,
39And lift the gold and silver that has mouldered there for years
40By the loud surf of Los Muertos which is beating in my ears.
Publication Start Year
The Poems and Plays of John Masefield (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1918).
RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh