I heard this on the radio the other day;
The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.
World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.
And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes-
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of your hands-
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.
It is a lovely poem, opening up all sorts of delicious possibilities. I particularly liked the second stanza, as it captures the whole world in an tangerine pip- the drunkeness of things being various.
It reminded me of the way poets look at things- looking through different windows perhaps, and seeing deeply.
It also reminded me of another poem- which the radio programme also made mention of later- by Gerard Manley Hopkins, with these lines;
Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
The first poem glimpses the size and wonder of the world, the second the spaces for God in it.
Amen to both.
Audrey steered me towards Louis MacNeice, as I am always on the look out for great poetry.
MacNeice was born in Belfast, but spent much of his life working for the BBC in London. He was part of a group known as the ‘thirties poets’, including Auden, Spender and Day Lewis. They were united by their left-leanings.
He said this- which I very much agree with-
Poetry in my opinion must be honest before anything else and I refuse to be ‘objective’ or clear-cut at the cost of honesty.
Here is one of his poems which I love, entitled ‘Prayer before birth’-
|I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the club-footed ghoul come near me.
I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me, with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me, on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.
I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light in the back of my mind to guide me.
I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me, my treason engendered by traitors beyond me, my life when they murder by means of my hands, my death when they live me.
I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white waves call me to folly and the desert calls me to doom and the beggar refuses my gift and my children curse me.
I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me.
I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton, would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with one face, a thing, and against all those who would dissipate my entirety, would blow me like thistledown hither and thither or hither and thither like water held in the hands would spill me.
Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.