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Laugh and Be Merry by John Masefield

John Masefield’s poem “Laugh and Be Merry” is filled with happiness. It outpours the joy in the poet’s heart through the lines. In this piece, Masefield tells readers to enjoy each and every moment of one’s life. Life is not a dream but an adventure of happiness. One can find it in everything as God’s creation is filled with “His mirth”. Life, a thread stretching to a span, should be cherished. The people on earth are like guests in an inn where moments should be passed not with a sigh, but with a warm breath of pure laughter. All must stand to each other as their brethren and make the most of this pageant of life.

  • Read the full text of “Laugh and Be Merry” here along with the analysis section.
Analysis of Laugh and Be Merry by John Masefield


Summary

Masefield provides different perspectives to be happy in each stanza. In the first stanza, he tells readers to better the world with their melodies and fight against the wrongs done to humankind. Everyone must laugh together as life is short. Besides, they must be proud of this ancient pageant of mankind.

In the second stanza, the poet tells readers about how God filled his creation with mirth. The world is created with a rhyme. We need to appreciate this enchanting beauty of the universe and express the joy of the earth through ourselves.

In the third stanza, Masefield details the way one should lead life. According to him, life is all about laughing, battling against the odds, and working until our last breath. If we ever feel weary in this journey, we can fill ourselves with the jubilant song of the stars and rejuvenating vegetation of the earth.

The last stanza contains an interesting metaphor. Masefield compares life to guesting in a beautiful inn. We should be glad till life’s dancing and music end. Lastly, as long as the game continues, Masefield tells readers to be happy, by addressing them as his friends.

Meaning

The title of the poem “Laugh and Be Merry” gives an idea of the subject matter of the poem. It sounds like advice to humankind in order to live a happy life. One cannot love life in a way that feels like a burden. To make this life a wonderful adventure, filled with exciting moments of learning, all must the art of being happy. Happiness does not exist outside of our hearts. It exists there in our very cores. We just need to explore this ore of bliss in order to make the most of life. In this poem, Masefield details this concept by referring to the creation of the world. According to him, God has already poured his mirth into the earth. If one has eyes and a feeling heart, it can easily be noticed.

Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter

Form

Masefield’s “Laugh and Be Merry” consists of four stanzas. Each stanza consists of four rhyming lines. One four-line stanza is called a quatrain. In a quatrain, Masefield employs the rhyming couplet form. It means the first two and the following ones rhyme together. Besides, the poet uses poly-syllabic, long lines. Alongside that, he makes use of repetition at the beginning of the first two stanzas.

Rhyme Scheme

The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABB. It means the first two lines of each stanza rhyme together like in a rhyming couplet. While the following lines end with a similar rhyme, different from the previous rhyming word. For example, in the first stanza, the rhyming pairs of words are “song” and “wrong”; “span” and “man”.

In the next stanza, “time” rhymes with “rhyme” and “mirth” with “earth”. The third stanza presents the following pairs of rhyming words: “sky” and “by”; “outpoured” and “Lord”. In the last stanza, “akin” and “inn”; and “ends” and “friends” rhyme together. So, the AABB rhyme scheme is strictly followed throughout the piece.

Meter

The overall poem is written with a combination of anapestic and iambic feet. Each line begins with an acephalous foot. The poem is mostly composed in anapestic hexameter. The stress while reading falls on the third syllable of each foot (a unit of two syllables) in most cases. This rising rhythm reflects the mood of the poem. Let’s look at the scansion of the first stanza in order to understand the metrical scheme.

Laugh/ and be mer/-ry, re-mem/-ber, bet/-ter the world/ with a song,

Bet/-ter the world/ with a blow/ in the teeth/ of a wrong.

Laugh,/ for the time/ is brief,/ a thread/ the length/ of a span.

Laugh/ and be proud/ to be-long/ to the old/ proud pa/-geant of man.


Literary Devices & Figurative Language

Masefield uses the following literary devices in his poem “Laugh and Be Merry”.

  • Metaphor: The poet uses several metaphors in the poem. Firstly, readers can find a metaphor in “a thread the length of a span”. Here, the comparison is made between time and a short thread. It also occurs in “string red wine of His mirth”, “deep blue cup of the sky”, “wine outpoured/ In the dear green earth”, “Guesting awhile in the rooms of a beautiful inn”, etc.
  • Simile: It occurs in “Laugh and be merry together, like brothers akin”. In this line, the poet compares humans with brothers of kin.
  • Alliteration: The repetition of similar sounds can be found in “proud pageant”, “filled them full”, “Join the jubilant”, “stars sweeping”, etc.
  • Allusion: There is a biblical allusion in the second stanza. By “olden time”, Masefield refers to the story of the creation.
  • Personification: In the line “The splendid joy of the stars: the joy of the earth”, the poet personifies the “stars” and the “earth”. It also occurs in “Join the jubilant song of the great stars sweeping by”.
  • Anaphora: It occurs in lines 3-4 (beginning with “Laugh”).
  • Repetition: The poet uses the repetition of the phrase “Laugh and be merry” at the beginning of the first two stanzas. Besides, the main verb of the poem “Laugh” is repeated throughout.
  • Polysyndeton: It occurs in the line “Laugh, and battle, and work, and drink of the wine outpoured”. Here, the conjunction “and” is repeated for the sake of emphasis.


Themes

The main themes of the poem “Laugh and Be Merry” are living life happily, the transience of life, happiness, spiritual fulfillment, and universal brotherhood. As one can sense from the very title, this piece is about how to live life in a more peaceful and satisfying way. In order to reach that state of complete happiness, one needs to understand a few points of the poet. Firstly, life is not long enough to be subjugated by negative emotions. The time we get is so worthy that it cannot be wasted over things like spreading hatred, envy, or passivity.

Furthermore, the poet says that the very essence of this creation is tied with God’s mirth. So, brooding over the little setbacks of life is like ignoring the inherited joy resting in our souls. Finally, the poet urges everyone to enjoy the moment till it ceases to exist. Besides, the theme of life’s transience is reflected in the third line. Alongside that, the overall piece concerns the foremost idea of spiritual fulfillment.

Stanza wise Explanation & Line-by-Line Analysis

Stanza One

Lines 1-2

Laugh and be merry, remember, better the world with a song,

Better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong.

John Masefield’s poetic persona begins this piece on a cheerful note “Laugh and be merry”. There is a pause at the end of this phrase that tells readers to emphasize this phrase alongside the word “remember”. Through this line, the speaker wants to remind the audience of the need of the moment. It is to laugh wholeheartedly and be merry throughout the journey called life.

There is another idea tied with this advice. The speaker tells readers to better the world with a “song”. Here, the “song” is a symbol of compassion, love, and sweetness. There is much strife in this world. In order to make this world better, one needs to fill this with the musicality of compassion.

There is another way to make this world better. It is to stand firmly against the wrongs of humankind. The phrase “in the teeth” stands for firmly opposing something. So, here Masefield tells readers not to be a silent audience to the wrongs happening around them. They must speak up.

Lines 3-4

Laugh, for the time is brief, a thread the length of a span.

Laugh and be proud to belong to the old proud pageant of man.

The last two lines contain anaphora. Masefield presents two reasons to laugh in these lines. Firstly, we have to be happy to make the most of the moment that is still left with us. According to him, time in one’s life is like a short thread. Its length is compared to our lifespan.

The second reason is to be happy concerning the idea of belonging to the “pageant of man”. This line contains a repetition of the word “proud” twice. Here, the speaker tells us to be proud as we belong to the “old proud pageant of man”. This phrase refers to the struggle of mankind that started at the very beginning.

Humans made their way to a world that has become more habitable and safer than before. Previously, they had to fight several challenges. Their urge to survive had helped them to sail through. Masefield reminds us of this ancient struggle of mankind compared to a “pageant”. The poet considers the history of humankind as an inspirational display of their valor and courage.

Stanza Two

Lines 5-6

Laugh and be merry: remember, in olden time.

God made Heaven and Earth for joy He took in a rhyme,

The second stanza begins with the repetition of the phrase “Laugh and be merry” followed by the term “remember”. In the first line, Masefield alludes to the biblical episode of creation. He does not delve into the plot. There is only a reference to the “olden time” when God started creating this world.

God developed “Heaven” and “Earth” out of sheer happiness. Like a poet takes pleasure in writing, God also expressed his happiness through the creation of the universe. Here, the first letter of the words heaven and earth are capitalized for the sake of emphasis. Masefield also creates a connection between the terms by using this scheme.

Furthermore, the poet describes God as a poet who took in a rhyme to form the world. This rhyme refers to the measure he took to formulate such a well-organized structure of the universe. In poetry, writers adeptly use words at the end of lines, not for the sake of rhyming only, but to build a sense of connection between ideas. Likewise, God dexterously created the world in a meaningful and rhythmical measure.

Lines 7-9

Made them, and filled them full with the strong red wine of

His mirth

The splendid joy of the stars: the joy of the earth.

Then God filled his creation with the “strong red wine”. Here, the poet hints at the Christian ceremony of the eucharist in which bread and wine are served. It is to commemorate the Last Supper of Christ along with his followers.

Masefield connects this idea with a different scenario. He projects God as Christ who filled the cup of the world with the strong wine of his joy. Here, two distinct concepts “wine” and “mirth” are compared. Here, wine represents God’s joy and amusement while he created the world. Readers can see the poet digresses from the structure by separating “His mirth” from the second line. The poet wants his readers to focus on these words especially.

In the last line of this stanza, Masefield personifies the “stars” and the “earth”. According to him, God not filled the world with his amusement but also decorated it with joyous stars. So, the “joy of the earth” is nothing but a reflection of his true happiness.

Stanza Three

Lines 10-13

So we must laugh and drink from the deep blue cup of the sky,

Join the jubilant song of the great stars sweeping by,

Laugh, and battle, and work, and drink of the wine outpoured

In the dear green earth, the sign of the joy of the Lord.

The poet solidifies his points concerning why we should laugh and be merry in the first two stanzas. In this section, he advises us on how we can appreciate and enjoy our lives. He urges us to laugh with all our hearts and drink from the sky. Here, the sky is compared to a “blue cup”. It is filled with the wine of God. We must have a sip of this strong beverage in order to feel the essence of God’s mirth.

Then we must join the “jubilant song of the great stars sweeping by”. The blinking of the stars reflects a sense of rhythm to the poet. So, he compares the rhythmical light of stars to a “jubilant song”, sung in praise of the creator.

We must laugh, fight the battles of our lives with a smile on our faces, and work until the end. Masefield uses a polysyndeton in order to emphasize the terms present here. Furthermore, he refers to the wine of the “dear green earth” and urges readers to drink it to the lees. In the phrase, the color “green” symbolizes the vegetation of nature. The poet compares it with a wine that can be sipped through our senses. According to him, our dear nature also bears the signs of the Lord’s joy.

Stanza Four

Lines 14-17

Laugh and be merry together, like brothers akin,

Guesting awhile in the rooms of a beautiful inn,

Glad till the dancing stops, and the lilt of the music ends.

Laugh till the game is played; and be you merry, my friends.

The last stanza begins with a refrain. In the first line, Masefield uses a simile in order to compare humans to members of a family. He compares life to vacation in an inn. The rooms of that beautiful inn represent the humans and the overall inn is a metaphor for the world. We just stay here for a short time. In order to make the most of this time, we have to treat others with brotherly love. Like comrades, we must greet each other and be merry.

Moreover, the poet tells readers to be glad till the vibrant dance show of life is over and the cadence of the music of earth ends. As long as this universal dance accompanied with the music exists, we should be enjoying it.

In the last line, the poet uses another metaphor to compare life to a game. He tells readers to laugh till this game is played. In a game, one can win or lose. Life is also like a game. There are ups and downs, highs and lows. In a game, it does not matter if one wins or loses. It only matters when one stops playing. Likewise, we should not stop living if faced with challenges. The art to be happy is to learn from the setbacks and move on with a smile.

Historical Context

The poem “Laugh and Be Merry” was composed in the 20th century by the former Poet Laureate of the UK John Masefield. Masefield held this post till his death in 1967. He started writing in the early 20th century. His best-known collections of poetry include Salt-Water Ballads, Ballads, The Everlasting Mercy, etc. This poem seems to be written after the First World War. In the first stanza, the term “wrong” is probably a reference to the World War that filled the earth with terror and devastation. Through writing this piece, the poet urges readers to be happy and eliminate hatred through love. In this poem, the poet gives a clarion call for the universal brotherhood that can make our world better.

Questions & Answers

How does John Masefield show the positive attitude of life in the poem “Laugh and Be Merry”?

This poem is filled with positivity and outpours Masefield’s happiness. The poet shows readers the ways to be happy. He does not refer to a particular time to be happy. Each moment of life is the best time to express our happiness. Besides, Masefield how God created this world with his joy. Lastly, he talks about fighting the battles of our lives with a smile and playing the game of life happily.

What kind of a poem is “Laugh and Be Merry”?

It is a lyric poem that is written from the perspective of a third-person point of view. Masefield employs a regular rhyme scheme of AABB and the anapestic meter in this poem.

How does Masefield persuade us to laugh and be merry?

Masefield persuades us to laugh by providing several points. Firstly we have to laugh to make the most of the moments of our lives. Then he goes on to describe how God filled the earth with his happiness. We have to appreciate his joyous creation through laughter. Lastly, as our life on this earth is short, we have to keep smiling till the end.

Why did God bless us with laughter?

Laughter makes us feel light and helps us to expand our souls. That’s why God blessed us with happiness and laughter.

What is “the sign of the joy of the Lord” in the poem “Laugh and Be Merry”?

The “dear green earth”, a metaphorical reference to nature is the sign of the Lord’s joy.

What is “brief” in the poem “Laugh and Be Merry”?

In this poem, Masefield says, “time is brief”. It is a reference to the temporality of life.

What is referred to as “a beautiful inn” in “Laugh and Be Merry”?

The world is referred to as “a beautiful inn” and human beings are the guests of that inn.

What does the poet mean by “Guesting awhile in the rooms of a beautiful inn”?

Through this line, Masefield hints at the transience of life. Like a guest of an inn, human beings come into this earth for a short period of time. Here, the poet showcases the theme of the transience of life.

What is the cup of wine and mirth according to the poet?

Heaven and earth are compared to cups of wine. God filled these containers with the wine of  “His mirth”.

What advice does the poet give at the end?

At the end of the poem, the poet advises readers to laugh throughout the game of life. We have to sportingly lead our lives, always with a smile.

What is the main idea of the poem “Laugh and Be Merry” by John Masefield?

The main idea of John Masefield’s poem concerns the idea of living life happily. In this poem, the poet shares the mantra of happiness in simple terms. There is no complexity in being happy throughout our lives as the very essence of this creation is part of God’s happiness.

Why according to the poet John Masefield has God created man?

God created humankind to express his joy.

Why did God make heaven and earth?

According to the poet, God made heaven and earth for joy. He took in a rhyme like a poet and composed the verse of universe.


Similar Poems to “Laugh and Be Merry”

  • “Stay Calm” by Grenville Kleiser — This poem teaches us the art of staying calm in the face of adversities.
  • “A Time to Believe” by B.J. Morbitzer — This piece is about believing in oneself and appreciating the beautiful things of life.
  • “The Awakening” by James Weldon Johnson — In this thoughtful poem, Johnson describes how he was spiritually awakened.
  • “The Rock and the Bubble” by Louisa May Alcott — This simple poem is about determination, kindness, and courage.


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