Timothy Winters – Charles Causley – Comments

Timothy Winters

Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football pool,
Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:
A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.

His belly is white, his neck is dark,
And his hair is an exclamation mark.
His clothes are enough to scare a crow
And through his britches the blue winds blow.

When teacher talks he won’t hear a word
And he shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,
He licks the patterns off his plate
And he’s not even heard of the Welfare State.

Timothy Winters has bloody feet
And he lives in a house on Suez Street,
He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor
And they say there aren’t boys like him any more.

Old man Winters likes his beer
And his missus ran off with a bombardier.
Grandma sits in the grate with a gin
And Timothy’s dosed with an aspirin.

The Welfare Worker lies awake
But the law’s as tricky as a ten-foot snake,
So Timothy Winters drinks his cup
And slowly goes on growing up.

At Morning Prayers the Master helves
For children less fortunate than ourselves,
And the loudest response in the room is when
Timothy Winters roars “Amen!”

So come one angel, come on ten:
Timothy Winters says “Amen
Amen amen amen amen.”
Timothy Winters, Lord.
Amen!

Charles Causley (1917 -2003)

This is probably the most well-known poem of Charles Causley. It is based on a real person. It is an eight stanza ballad written in the 1950s about a boy who was afflicted with a series of misfortunes aptly described in each stanza.

Here is a reading of the poem by the author

S1 … people would have known about the blitz
S2 … home life is clearly expressed in the state of dress and personal presentation
S3 … not a good scholar, rather bad manners at table – not aware of ‘Welfare’
S4 … shoes are lacking, his bed rather primitive … thought to be not in society
S5 … his dad is a bit of an alcoholic so too his Grandma who is now looking after him after his mum took off with a soldier
S6 … Welfare aren’t very responsive to the situation
S7 … prayers at school include the less fortunate … he certainly says amen to that but the question is – is he just saying amen with no understanding of his unfortunate predicament
S8 … come one angel come ten or more … here’s a plea … Timothy Winters has asked for help whether he is aware or not of his need … he certainly needs his prayers to be answered.

This poem asks a few questions including …

How does society integrate the disadvantaged and unlikable? … the role of ‘Welfare’ and similar support organisations and that of individual response?

How to stop further disadvantage when in mainstream life? Well, in three words awareness, acceptance and support.

Considering awareness, here is an incident when I was a seven or eight year old. My mother had kindly invited an elderly friend for afternoon tea and it was a somewhat formal occasion as we all sat around the dining table. Towards the end of the tea I noticed her friend trying to pick up the patterned flowers from her plate to eat. I sadly admit that my response was to laugh for I knew nothing about being elderly. Awareness, and hopefully respect and sensitivity, increases both with life-experience and education.

Unfortunately that was far from the case in the reprehensible inhuman police killing of the African-American man George Floyd. It leaves an ugly scar on the face of modern day America.

Charles Causley on Wikipedia

Eavan Boland – Tribute – ‘And Soul’

 

Irish poet Eavan Boland died at the end of April at the age of 75 from a stroke. Born in Dublin in 1944, Eavan Boland is one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature. She created a much needed female balance to Irish poetry on the same level as Yeats and Heaney.

She was known for documenting women’s lives, including their domestic lives. Her work covered the role of women in Irish history and culture. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Book Awards in 2017 for what was described as her art, her eloquence and her stalwart advocacy for poetry.

Her first collection of poems was published when she was still a student and she went on to have a long career as a poet, editor and teacher. In recent years, she divided her time between Ireland the US. She was Professor of English and director of the creative writing programme at Stanford University.

For more information

A link to a tribute to Eavan Boland

A link to Wikipedia


I have chosen the following poem because it reflects her love of Dublin and gives her personal thoughts as she drove through wet weather to visit her dying mother. The Liffey is the river that flows through Dublin.

And Soul

My mother died one summer –
the wettest in the records of the state.
Crops rotted in the west.
Checked tablecloths dissolved in back gardens.
Empty deckchairs collected rain.
As I took my way to her
through traffic, through lilacs dripping blackly
behind houses
and on curbsides, to pay her
the last tribute of a daughter, I thought of something
I remembered
I heard once, that the body is, or is
said to be, almost all water and as I turned southward, that ours is a
city of it,
one in which
every single day the elements begin
a journey towards each other that will never,
given our weather,
fail –
the ocean visible in the edges cut by it,
cloud colour reaching into air,
the Liffey storing one and summoning the other,
salt greeting the lack of it at the North Wall and,
as if that wasn’t enough, all of it
ending up almost every evening
inside our speech –
coast canal ocean river stream and now
mother and I drove on and although
the mind is unreliable in grief, at
the next cloudburst, it almost seemed
they could be shades of each other,
the way the body is
of every one of them and now
they were on the move again – fog into mist,
mist into sea spray and both into the oily glaze
that lay on the railings of
the house she was dying in
as I went inside.

Eavan Boland (1944 – 2020)

Quite clearly it is a soaking wet city and enforces the Ireland rain connection to the mind. But it does give a shadowy grey dismal emotive background associated with pending death.

It is interesting for it is almost as if she connects the unending rain with her mother as if there is a transference or absorption – ‘it almost seems they could be the shades of each other, / the way the body is’. This reflection is readily accessible by the reader and her thoughts obviously dominated by having to journey through the city in wet weather and it being the wettest summer ever.

The title ‘And Soul’ is thought provoking. My thoughts are that ‘soul’ is always secondary and latent, if you like behind everything and in this case very much behind this personal experience when driving in the rain. 

This poem contrasts with my previous Post of Wallace Steven’s poem ‘The Snow Man’ where a different transference is involved and where words need much thought.

RIP – absorbed in Ireland beautiful.

Demain, dès l’aube – Victor Hugo

Demain, dès l’aube

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour when the countryside whitens,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
I will depart. You see, I know you wait for me.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
I will go through the forest and over the mountains.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
I cannot stay far from you any longer.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
I will trudge on, my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Ignoring everything around me, without hearing a sound,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Alone, unknown, back stooped, hands crossed,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.
Saddened, and the day will be like night for me.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
I will neither see the golden glow of the falling evening,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Nor the sails going down to Harfleur in the distance,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
And when I arrive, I will place on your tomb
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
A bouquet of green holly and flowering heather.

Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885)

This is one of French writer Victor Hugo’s most famous poems. It was published in his 1856 collection Les Contemplations

Harfleur – was the principal seaport in north-western France for six centuries, until Le Havre was built about five kilometres downstream. The suffix fleur comes from Old Norse Flöthe meaning ‘estuary or arm of the sea’ – and not flower. The precise meaning of the prefix “har” is unknown.

It was written after the death of his daughter. A fully focused personal journey of communion. It is a very moving poem.

Here is a reading of the french with a musical background.

I took the translation from the internet. I would prefer some less literal minor changes … for example, in the last stanza –

I will neither see the golden glow of falling evening,
nor the sails going down in the distance at Harfleur,
and when I arrive, I will place on your grave
a bouquet of green holly and heather in flower.

However, I do love the french and nothing can equal the beauty of the original language.

Victor Hugo on Wikipedia … he will always be remembered for Les Miserables

Pluck – Eva Dobell – some ANZAC Day words

Pluck

Crippled for life at seventeen,
His great eyes seems to question why:
with both legs smashed it might have been
Better in that grim trench to die
Than drag maimed years out helplessly.

A child – so wasted and so white,
He told a lie to get his way,
To march, a man with men, and fight
While other boys are still at play.
A gallant lie your heart will say.

So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread
To see the ‘dresser’ drawing near;
and winds the clothes about his head
That none may see his heart-sick fear.
His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.

But when the dreaded moment’s there
He’ll face us all, a soldier yet,
Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,
(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his Woodbine cigarette.

Eva Dobell (1876 – 1963)

Today is ANZAC Day. The 25th of April is one of Australia’s most important national days. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War at Gallipoli. It is a day of remembrance for those from both countries who have died in any wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Often war related poetry is from a male perspective. This poem by Eva Dobell is from firsthand experience as a nurse.

Pluck = spirited and determined courage and was certainly needed by many war victims in dealing with horrific wounds at an early age.

S1 – many nurses and medics have thoughts of this nature when seeing the horrors of the condition of their patients. However, recovery even in such adverse conditions is still possible and an on-going life possible albeit a very different life.
S2 – the irony that the soldier falsified his age in order take part in the war and fight for country while others were more circumspect. He was very young and probably out for adventure and without understanding.
S3 – He is about to be dressed and again he shows determined courage in not showing any weakness to the nursing staff.
S4 – He faces his bared wounds as a soldier with unmoved air but the nurse sees the tell-tale suffering undergone in his eyes as he smokes a cigarette. Woodbine was a brand that was cheap and popular with the working class and with soldiers during both World Wars. Smoking was acceptable in the recovery wards.

Eva Dobell on Wikipedia

And here is a link to previous ANZAC Day Posts including the Australian poet Judith Wright.

When All The Others Were Away at Mass – Seamus Heaney – Analysis

When All The Others Were Away at Mass
from Clearances III – In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives—
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

This is a personal poem on a precious incident between mother and son that will always be remembered. Both are engaged in a domestic task working in unison and perhaps of more importance is that they had the time together to share in potato peeling while the rest of the family was away at Mass. ‘I was all hers’ are key words as Seamus reveled at having a time of complete togetherness. And he had obviously seen solder melt and form droplets to fall away from the heated iron. And likewise when the potatoes were peeled they would fall and the splash would break the silence of their intense communion and bring them to their senses. You can easily picture this intimate scene.

The sestet lines are much later in the relationship when his mother is dying and the parish priest is in attendance. The priest is dominating the scene with much noise (hammer and tongs). Oblivious to the religious background Seamus remembers that one incident when he was closest to his mother – ‘her breath in mine’ marrying with the octet words ‘I was all hers’.

I think, for all of us, when we empty the purse of life we will treasure such gold coins among the clutter.

Here is a reading of this poem by Seamus Heaney.

This sonnet was chosen by the public (via a poll by the national broadcaster) as Ireland’s favourite poem of the last 100 years. Here is a link to the eight sonnets Heaney wrote in memory of his mother, Margaret Kathleen Heaney.

For a detailed analysis with images of mother and child see this link.

Seamus Heaney – An Irish poet, playwright and translator is widely recognised as one of the major poets of the 20th century. He is the author of over 20 volumes of poetry and criticism, and edited several widely used anthologies. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 ‘for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.’ He taught at Harvard University (1985-2006) and served as the Oxford Professor of Poetry (1989-1994). ‘Walk on air against your better judgement’ from his poem, ‘The Gravel Walks’ is inscribed on his headstone.

A link to Seamus Heaney on Wikipedia.

Easter Sunday Sunrise

Easter Sunday Sunrise

not just another day
another day of the same
of the no touch of distancing
of not being able to reach out in the community
of confinement to self
of being centered on the inside
not just another day
no!

this day is different
this day is the one day
the one day that opens into every day
the lifeline to eternal tomorrows
as our own tomorrow ending
is contemplated

Richard Scutter

Celebrate this special day with friends and family!

Emily Dickinson on Facebook – Pamela Milne

A U3A friend, Ian, introduced me to a very amusing poem by Pamela Milne that imagined Emily Dickinson on Facebook. He obtained it from this link.

In the poem Milne mentions Emily using a tinted/photo-shopped version of the one famous daguerreotype (early photographic process). Here’s just the thing By Debra Styer to go with the poem.

EmilyDickinson

Emily Dickinson on Facebook

She posts many times a day.
Often during the night and early morning.
Photos of spiders and flies on windowsills,
her garden seen through her bedroom window,
her new tulle dress, flowers in a simple vase.
No poems.
Anyone who requests to be her friend, she accepts,
but she never clicks the Like button.
She never comments.
She never responds to messages.
She joins no groups.
Every weekend she changes her cover photo:
leaves of trees and bushes, surfaces of water,
things seen so close up as to be abstract.
But her profile photo is always the same one.
Sometimes she does something to it in Photoshop –
a tint, a filter, sepia – but still, the same.
Emily.

Pamela Milne

Here are Ian’s comments from a recent U3A Poetry meeting –

The idea of the quintessential recluse Emily Dickinson choosing to be on Facebook sounds oxymoronic at first like … but of course social media, artfully used, is a godsend for the true recluse. Pamela Milne’s sense of how Emily would/wouldn’t use Facebook, how she’d make so much of small things in her necessarily small world, is exquisite. Perfect, even. I went “Gosh!” with admiration when I read it. I can’t find a biographical word anywhere about Milne…so if anyone knows anything about her…

I too could find nothing on the Internet so if I find out more about her this Post will be amended.

Well, seclusion is highly topical with the virus restricting many people to limited space. Emily Dickinson would have no problems adhering to the restrictions! Perhaps those poetically minded or those involved in writing that are in forced confinement can use the time to produce some work. Another thought is the maintenance of a diary. For all those reading this Post and in forced seclusion I wish you well.