1st june 2004

It's John Masefield's birthday; he went from working in a carpet factory in New York City to Poet Laureate, a smart career move. When I see his name I think of this quote, from his novel Jim Davis (our young hero has been shanghaied by smugglers and his leader and mentor has been wounded in some skirmish):

I put a tub under his head as a pillow, then I cut his shirt open and saw that he had been shot in the chest. I ran forward with a pannikin, drew some water, and gave him a drink. He drank greedily, biting the tin, but did not recognise me; all that he could say was "Rip-raps, Rip-raps," over and over again. The Rip-raps was the name of a race or tideway on the Campeachy coast; he had often told me about it, and I had remembered the name because it was such a queer one. I bathed his wound with the water.

The OED would have us believe that rip-raps are:

An imitation of the sound caused by a rapid succession of blows; hence, a sharp blow. Obs.
A kind of detonating firework.
A rocky submarine hillock.
Loose stone thrown down in water or on a soft bottom to form a foundation for a breakwater or other work.

Or most famously, stones embedded in the ground to stabilize a trail:
see Gary Snyder.