DREAM OF WINTER These were the sounds that dinned upon his ear – The spider’s fatal purring, and the grey Trumpeting of old mammoths locked in ice. No human sound there was: only the evil Shriek of the violin sang of human woe And conquest and defeat, and the round drums Sobbed as they beat. He saw the victim nailed against the night With ritual stars. The skull, a ruin of dreams, Leaned in the wind, merry with curl and thorn. The long robes circled. A penitential wail For the blue lobster and the yellow cornstalk And the hooded victim, broken to let men live, Flashed from their throats. Then all the faces turned from the Winter Man. From the loch’s April lip a swan slid out In a cold rhyme. The year stretched like a child And rubbed its eyes on light. Spring on the hill With lamb and tractor, lovers and burning heather. Byres stood open. The wind’s blue fingers laid A migrant on the rock. FROM: The Faber Book of 20th Century Verse Edited by John Heath-Stubbs & David Wright
SONG XII from TWELVE SONGS
For something a bit different – here is SONG XII set to music by Benjamin Britten.
Peformed by Karen Coker (soprano) and Eric Jenkins (Piano)
MARINA Quis hic locus quae Regio, quae mundi plaga? What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands What water lapping the bow And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog What images return O my daughter. Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning Death Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning Death Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning Death Those who suffer the ecstacy of the animals, meaning Death Are become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind, A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog By this grace dissolved in place What is this face, less clear and clearer The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger – Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the Eye Whisper and small laughter between leaves and hurrying Feet Under sleep, where all the waters meet. Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat. I made this, I have forgotten And remember. The rigging weak and the canvas rotten Between one June and another September. Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own. The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking. This form, this face, this life Living to live for a world of time beyond me; let me Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken, The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships. What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers And woodthrush calling through the fog My daughter. FROM: Collected Poems 1909-1962 T.S. Eliot Faber Paperbacks
From: BEOWULF AND GRENDEL Attend! We have heard of the thriving of the throne of Denmark, how the folk-kings flourished in former days, how those royal athelings earned that glory. Was it not Scyld Shefing that shook the halls, Took mead-benches, taught encroaching foes to fear him – who, found in childhood, lacked clothing? Yet he lived and prospered, grew in strength and stature under the heavens until the clans settled in the sea-coasts neighbouring over the whale-road all must obey him and give tribute. He was a good king! FROM: Beowulf and Grendel A Verse Translation by Michael Alexander Penguin 60s
This poem seems particularly pertinent today. Brilliant and I love the rhyme structure.
VALEDICTORY Those living and those yet to be Are all her immortality: The subjects of the world she made Still speak her language, still afraid To change it. She saw her people as they were: Don’t-Cares who can’t be made to care: These sentimental hypocrites Let her, their true-blue Clausewitz Arrange it. Let poverty without parole Replace the right to draw the dole. Let coppers pulling triple time Turn opposition into crime At Orgreave. Let the General Belgrano, Sunk to save our sheep, our guano, Mark the freezing south Atlantic As the empire’s last romantic War grave. Let children learn no history These days, but only how to be As economically astute As all the dealers snorting toot For dinner, Desperate to anticipate Like destiny the nation state’s Ineluctable decline To client status: I me mine, The winner. Branch libraries and playing fields Deliver rather slower yields Than asset-stripping mountebanks Can rake in flogging dope and tanks; Great Britain! Strange: no one nowadays admits To voting in the gang of shits Who staffed her army of the night: Our history, it seems, is quite Rewritten. When it comes to telling lies The change is hard to recognize. What can’t be hidden can be burned. She must be gratified: we’ve learned Her lesson. Now when some sanctimonious ape Says, No, there never was a tape, A bribe, a private meeting with Et cetera, where are you, Smith And Wesson? FROM: THE DROWNED BOOK Sean O'Brien Picador Classic
WORDS Axes After whose stroke the wood rings, And the echoes! Echoes traveling Off from the center like horses. The sap Wells like tears, like the Water striving To re-establish its mirror Over the rock That drops and turns, A white skull, Eaten by weedy greens. Years later I Encounter them on the road---- Words dry and riderless, The indefatigable hoof-taps. While From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars Govern a life. FROM: Ariel SYLVIA PLATH Faber and Faber
TRANSIENT AS A ROSE Lat no man booste of conning nor vertu, Of tresour, richesse, nor of sapience, Of worldly support, for all cometh of Jesu: Counsail, comfort, discresioun and prudence, Provisioun, forsight and providence, Like as the Lord of grace list dispoose; Som man hath wisdom, som man hath elloquence – All stant on chaunge, like a midsomer roose. Wholsom in smelling be the soote floures, Full delitable, outward, to the sight; The thorn is sharp, curyd with fresh coloures; (covered) All is nat gold that outward sheweth bright; A stokfish boon in dirkeness yeveth a light; Twen fair and foul, as God list dispoose, A difference atwix day and night – All stant on chaunge, like a midsomer roose. It was the Roose of the bloody feeld, Roose of Jericho that grew in Beedlem (Bethlehem) The five rooses portrayed on the sheeld, Splayed in the baneer at Jerusalem: The sonne was clips, and dirk in every rem, (eclipse, realm) When Christ Jesu five welles list uncloose Toward Paradis, called the rede strem – Of whos five woundes prent in your heart a roose. FROM: THE FLORA An Anthology of Poetry and Prose Compiled by Fiona MacMath