Quinquireme of Nineveh

I remember (parts of) a poem from high school. Just the one. Here’s the full version:

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


Quinqueremeancient Roman galley with five banks of oars on each side;

quinquereme roman

Nineveh – ancient city located on the outskirts of Mosul in modern-day northern Iraq, on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. Nineveh was the largest city in the world for some fifty years until the year 612 BC;

Ophir – A city mentioned in the Bible (1 Kings 10:22) from where King Solomon got treasure every three years: gold, silver, sandalwood, pearls, ivory, apes and peacocks! Could have been anywhere; many places have been suggested, from Great Zimbabwe and Ethiopia in Africa, to the East, to the Americas.

Spanish galleon

Galleon Spanish

moidores – Portuguese gold coins

British coaster

coaster robin, british


Another poem by Masefield became a favourite and I mentioned it in a tribute here.

I like his wishes for after his death. He wrote:

Let no religious rite be done or read
In any place for me when I am dead,
But burn my body into ash, and scatter
The ash in secret into running water,
Or on the windy down, and let none see;
And then thank God that there’s an end of me.

Myself I’d actually like to go one better.


We also did Shakespeare in the Vrystaat – Antony & Cleopatra. I only remember one line:

‘He ploughed her and she cropped’


Long after school I learnt some better lessons. One of them:

‘It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.’


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