The Day Lady Died – Frank O’Hara – Comments

The Day Lady Died
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday  
three days after Bastille Day, yes 
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine 
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner 
and I don’t know the people who will feed me 
I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun  
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy 
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets 
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank 
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard) 
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or 
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres 
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness 
and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE  
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and 
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue 
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and 
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton 
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it 
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of 
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT 
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing 
Frank O’Hara (1926 - 1966)

The actual day in 1959 is particularly important and this is defined in terms of Bastille Day (14 July), three days after making it 17 July. And it is very hot in the New York summer indicated by the sweating in the last stanza. But what is it that is so important about this day and who was ‘Lady’ (she was known as ‘Lady Day’).

This is a poem about place, the place being New York and if you don’t know New York it is difficult with all the references. Frank O’Hara is walking the streets and picks up a paper. It was Billie Holliday on the cover of the New York Post he bought. 

The sudden realisation that Lady, that great Jazz Queen, has died and he and like those who know her are momentarily stunned on hearing of her death.

If you appreciate Jazz and know New York this poem will have more depth of meaning as you walk the same path. For example, you would know that …

The Five Spot Café was a jazz club located at 5 Cooper Square (1956–1962) in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City, between the East and West Village. In 1962, it moved to 2 St. Marks Place until closing in 1967. Its friendly, non-commercial, and low-key atmosphere with affordable drinks and food and cutting edge bebop and progressive jazz attracted a host of avant-garde artists and writers. It was a venue of historic significance as well, a mecca for musicians, both local and out-of-state, who packed the small venue to listen to many of the most creative composers and performers of the era.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

And Frank O’Hara certainly knew New York. He was part of the New York Poetry scene and he frequented Five Spot where he appreciated the voice of Billie Holliday firsthand.

And even if you know nothing of the City, I am sure you can appreciate the bohemian flavour of a poet on his regular walk not exactly knowing how Mike and Patsy will feed him in the evening. It looks as though he buys something to take, alcohol for Mike and something to read for Patsy. Verlaine was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement and the Decadent movement. He details exactly what he did that day from the 12:20pm time he started walking to the name of the teller at the Bank. And he is obviously familiar with the theatre.

And it is a poem about the sudden notification of a death in the midst of on-going life that stuns a person ‘breathless’. There is a spiritual connection in the last stanza as Billie Holliday’s voice enters his mind, Mal Waldron was a jazz musician.

I can remember when Diana died, I was at an early morning church service that Sunday in the village of Hartley Wintney when the minister spoke about that tragic overnight car crash. Later that day we flew out from Heathrow with no delays despite possible pandemonium at the airport.

This is perhaps the most well-known poem by Frank O’Hara.

Frank O’Hara – Frank O’Hara – Wikipedia

Billie Holliday – Billie Holiday – Wikipedia

Separation – Colin Campbell Analysis

Separation
a card arrives 
“happy birthday  fondest love”
i stand it on the fridge
whilst  half a world away
she has forgotten that she sent it
but recalls the usual things
peeling the vegetables  making the bed  sweeping  dusting
later  her head nods over a page  and
the once-friendly words turn away and hide
thin rain oozes from the mossy tiles 
and the bare brown trees stare through the afternoon 
and drip  she tries to remember what it is 
that she must thaw for tea 
and the kitchen  silent as lino  will not tell her
dealt from a well-worn pack of tidy habits 
(what ought to be done rather than the needful)
hours are laid out in patterns on the day’s thin fabric
(so much is to do with the turn
of one moment to cover the last)
whilst indifferent  greedy  thieving Time
gnaws the afternoon
rubbing a hole in the window’s condensation 
she watches the cold  flat Suffolk landscape
turn and shiver beneath the winter sky
and  looking up  she sees the cold rain in the trees …
… and i remember it
Colin Campbell (1941 -

Colin uses spaces in his text to denote a pause while reading. For example – and the kitchen  silent as lino there are two spaces between kitchen and silent. So the more spaces between words in the text the longer the pause.

Colin is a member of our U3A Poetry Appreciation Group and this is a poignant poem from his book ‘Poems’ published at the end of 2021. Looking at each stanza I can give some context to give more depth behind the words which might help the reader.

S1 … The poem addresses Colin’s mother in England while he himself is living in Australia. The first three lines refer to Colin placing a card from his mother on the fridge. This is then a trigger to a reflection on his mother who is living with dementia in Suffolk, England. Maybe he has mentioned the card in a telephone conversation and his mother has no recollection of sending it.

But with a failing mind his mother is confined to keeping track of everyday happenings.

And I like the way words are personified as they hide their meaning as she struggles in daily life.

S2 … It is a dreary winter day … the trees have lost their leaves … it is fitting in connection with the loss or separation taking place in the struggle with domestic life. And little things once easily performed are now hard to fathom out … again, the wonderful personification of the kitchen lino – silent – and unable to help.

S3 … Habits do die hard … worn down by the years … she would like to keep her house tidy but is this really needed … and the day’s thin fabric give that sense that the day itself is fading akin to perhaps the fading of clothes now worn by his mother. And the complexity of each moment as it turns on itself in the effort to combat the lack of mind progression in dealing with dementia … clearly there is separation in the ability to deal with everyday life

And Time is capitalised to give strength to the personification as it gnaws away life … nicely connecting to the problem with trying to remember what’s for tea previously mentioned in the second stanza.

S4 … we have a picture of Colin’s mother looking out on the dreary winter Suffolk environment … creating a small window hole on life outside … the hole that is dementia in reducing life, and she sees the cold rain descending …

… and Colin too remembers the Suffolk scene … and there is a sense of beauty in his recollection of his Suffolk days … perhaps different to the way his mother sees the countryside … but although there is separation there is that strong personal connection.

This is a poem that will relate to those coming to terms with dementia in whatever way the condition manifests.

Vitai Lampada – Henry Newbolt – Comments

Vitai Lampada
There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night—
Ten to make and the match to win—
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
'Play up! play up! and play the game! '

The sand of the desert is sodden red,—
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
'Play up! play up! and play the game! '

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind—
'Play up! play up! and play the game!
Sir Henry Newbolt (1862 – 1938)

Born in Bilston, Staffordshire in 1862, Newbolt was educated at Clifton School and Oxford University. After his studies Newbolt became a barrister. Higly respected, Newbolt was a lawyer, novelist, playwright and magazine editor. Above all, he was a poet who championed the virtues of chivalry and sportsmanship combined in the service of the British Empire.

Written in 1892 Vitaï Lampada was published in Newbolt’s first collection of poetry, Admirals All in 1897. It is probably the best known of all Newbolt’s poems, and for which he is now chiefly remembered. The title is taken from a quotation by Lucretius and means The torch of life. It refers to how a schoolboy, a future soldier, learns selfless commitment to duty in cricket matches in the famous Close at Clifton College. And of course, extension of duty goes far beyond the cricket field.

This is all about playing the game regardless, being part of the team is all important – and concentrating on doing your bit for King and country.

This is a propaganda poem using mate-ship to rally the war cause. And mate-ship is based on that old school tradition of loyalty to your friends. I think times have changed markedly and soldiers have now learned to think for themselves without blindly following orders! Unless of course, they are coerced by authoritarian regimes.

Here is my own propaganda. Seen on the back window of a car parked at the Balloon Festival in Canberra, the following words –
UNITED
in
TRUTH – LOVE – PEACE

Sir Henry Newbolt on Wikipedia … Henry Newbolt – Wikipedia

Yussouf – James Russell Lowell – Analysis

Yussouf
A stranger came one night to Yussouf’s tent,
Saying, “Behold one outcast and in dread,
Against whose life the bow of power is bent,
Who flies, and hath not where to lay his head;
I come to thee for shelter and for food,
To Yussouf, called through all our tribes ‘The Good.’”
“This tent is mine,” said Yussouf, “but no more
Than it is God’s; come in, and be at peace;
Freely shalt thou partake of all my store
As I of his who buildeth over these
Our tents his glorious roof of night and day,
And at whose door none ever yet heard Nay.”
So Yussouf entertained his guest that night,
And, waking him ere day, said: “Here is gold,
My swiftest horse is saddled for thy flight,
Depart before the prying day grow bold.”
As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,
So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.
That inward light the stranger’s face made grand,
Which shines from all self-conquest; kneeling low,
He bowed his forehead upon Yussouf’s hand,
Sobbing: “O Sheik, I cannot leave thee so;
I will repay thee; all this thou hast done
Unto that Ibrahim who slew thy son!”
“Take thrice the gold,” said Yussouf, “for with thee
Into the desert, never to return,
My one black thought shall ride away from me;
First-born, for whom by day and night I yearn,
Balanced and just are all of God’s decrees;
Thou art avenged, my first-born, sleep in peace!”
James Russell Lowell (1819 – 1891)

This is a prose story poem between the two characters Yussouf and Ibrahim set to an Arab background.

Yussouf is a sheik, a leader of his people, and many years ago Ibrahim murdered his son. Ibrahim is an outcast and is now in fear for his life and seeks sanctuary in the tent of Yussouf. Yussouf accepts him as his guest and gives him shelter and food, stating that his tent is akin to the home of God.

In the tradition of treating a guest with kindness, in the morning he gives a horse and gold to Ibrahim before sending him on his way stating –

As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,
So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.

This is all too much for Ibrahim and sobbing confesses that he has murdered Yussouf’s son.

And here is the critical decision point in the story. Yussouf does not take revenge. He quite astounds the reader by giving more gold coins before sending Ibrahim on his way.

Why does he do this – well for one reason Ibrahim is repentant and for many years Yussouf has held revenge in his heart as a dark shadow and by this act he is released of this shackle. At the same time Yussouf forgives. A wonderful example of great humanity and perhaps indicative of how God would respond.

balanced and just are all of God’s decrees.

If there is a new way of thinking and acting, then it is easy to aid and give ‘poetic gold’ in assistance in the new life of the offender. Consider the conversion of Paul the Apostle on the road to Damascus that led him to cease persecuting early Christians and become a follower of Jesus.

But ‘Love’ your enemies takes on a whole new way of thinking when there is no repentance; especially when your own life is threatened.

James Russell Lowell on Wikipedia

Stubbing Wharfe – Ted Hughes – Analysis

Stubbing Wharfe
Between the canal and the river 
We sat in the gummy dark bar. 
Winter night rain. The black humped bridge and its cobbles 
Sweating black, under lamps of drizzling yellow. 
And the hillsides going straight up, the high woods, 
Massed with tangled wintry wet, and the moorland 
Almost closing above us. The shut-in 
Sodden dreariness of the whole valley, 
The hopeless old stone trap of it. Where shall we live? 
That was the question, in the yellow-lit tap-room 
Which was cold and empty. You having leapt 
Like a thrown dice, flinging off 
The sparkle of America, pioneer 
In the wrong direction, sat weeping, 
Homesick, exhausted, disappointed, pregnant. 
Where could we start living? Italy? Spain? 
The world was all before us. And around us 
This gloomy memorial of a valley, 
The fallen-in grave of its history, 
A gorge of ruined mills and abandoned chapels, 
The fouled nest of the Industrial Revolution 
That had flown. The windows glittering black. 
If this was the glamour of an English pub, it was horrible. 
Like a bubble in the sunk Titanic. 
Our flashing inter-continental sleeper 
Had slammed into a gruesome, dead-end tunnel. 
Where could we camp? The ideal home 
Was trying to crawl 
Up out of my Guinness. Where we sat, 
Forty years before I was born 
My drunken grandad, dragged out of the canal, 
Had sat in the sheet singing. A house of our own 
Answering all your problems was the answer 
To all my problems. All we needed 
Was to get a home – anywhere, 
Then all our goblins would turn out to be elves, 
Our vampires guides, our demons angels
In that garden. Yes, the garden. The garden 
Swelled under all our words – like the presence 
Of what swelled in you. 
Everything 
Was there in my Guinness. Where, exactly? 
That was the question – that dark 
Peculiar aftertaste, bitter liquorice 
Of the secret ingredient. At that black moment 
Prophecy like a local owl, 
Down from the deep-cut valley opposite 
Made a circuit through its territory – 
Your future and mine. ‘These side-valleys,’ I whispered, 
‘Are full of the most fantastic houses, 
Going for next to nothing. For instance 
Up there opposite – up that valley – ‘ 
My certainty of the place was visionary, 
Waiting there, on its walled terrace – an eyrie 
You had no idea what I was talking about. 
Your eyes were elsewhere – 
The sun-shot Atlantic lift, the thunderous beaches,
The ice cream summits, the whispers of avalanches, 
Valleys brimming gentians – the Lawrentian globe 
Lit the crystal globe you stared into 
For your future – while a silent 
Wing of your grave went over you. Up that valley 
A future home waited for both of us – 
Two different homes. Where I saw so clearly 
My vision house, you saw only blackness, 
Black nothing, the face of nothingness, 
Like that rainy window.
                                    Then five bowlers 
Burst in like a troupe of clowns, laughing. 
They thumped down their bowls and ordered. Their star turn 
had a raging ulcer, agony. 
Or the ulcer was the star. It kept 
The five of them doubled up – tossing helpless 
On fresh blasts of laughter. It stoked them 
Like souls tossing in a hell, on a grill 
Of helpless laughter, agony, tears 
Streaming down their faces 
Like sweat as they struggled, throats gulping, 
To empty their glasses, refilling and emptying. 
I had to smile. You had to smile. The future 
Seemed to ease out a fraction.

Ted Hughes (1930 – 1998) from Birthday Letters

A poem based on a couple in a Yorkshire Pub on a dreary wet winter evening. The two people sharing a drink are from quite divergent backgrounds. And this is a recall of an actual event in the life of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath in the first years of their marriage. They had just returned from America in December 1959 and Sylvia was four months pregnant with Frieda. They spent that Christmas in Yorkshire with family.

The discussion focused on the future and where to live. And TH would love to live in the style of one of the old homes despite painting a woeful picture of the post-industrial collapse –

Your future and mine. ‘These side-valleys,’ I whispered,
‘Are full of the most fantastic houses,

Stubbing Wharfe is the name of a hotel near the Calder River in Hebden Bridge a village of great personal identity for Ted Hughes. Sylvia Plath is buried in the graveyard extension at St Thomas’s church in Heptonstall, Hebden Bridge. And this outcome is inferred in his words while a silent / wing of your grave went over you together foretelling blackness as well as her final resting place.

Ted Hughes had a great affinity and love of his native area. His granddad had an enjoyable evening at a similar Pub 40 years ago –

my drunken grandad, dragged out of the canal,
had sat in the sheet singing.

In contrast Sylvia Plath was thinking of her American Boston background and the Atlantic coast –

The sun-shot Atlantic lift, the thunderous beaches,
The ice cream summits, the whispers of avalanches,
Valleys brimming gentians – the Lawrentian globe
Lit the crystal globe you stared into

They were silently entertaining their own different thoughts. Of note, that many years later after the death of Sylvia, Ted bought a house nearby called Lumb Bank. It is now used as a retreat to help further young aspiring writers.

I love the description of the evening and can relate to it easily. TH’s choice of words reflects my personal experience –

The black humped bridge and its cobbles 
Sweating black, under lamps of drizzling yellow.
And the hillsides going straight up, the high woods,
Massed with tangled wintry wet, and the moorland
Almost closing above us.

And an apt description of the environment which suffered the consequences of the collapse in the mills –

The fallen-in grave of its history, 
A gorge of ruined mills and abandoned chapels,
The fouled nest of the Industrial Revolution
That had flown.

I could add though that those enclosing moors always have that eternal fascination. And I am sure Thomas Hardy would agree considering ‘Egdon Heath’ in Dorset (‘Return of the Native’).

Then the arrival of the five bowlers in hilarious exuberant mood with laughing voices completely dominated the indoor Pub scene. And Ted and Sylvia were detracted from the gravity of their depressive thoughts ‘I had to smile. You had to smile / The future Seemed to ease out a fraction‘. Nice that such a jolt can happen unexpectedly to us at times.

This poem shows Ted Hughes had an appreciation of Guinness, and so too his grandad who over indulged! Here is his description of Guinness in line 44 – peculiar aftertaste, bitter liquorice of the secret ingredient. Which has a certain Irish touch of the magic in the wording.

I went to University in Bradford (1965 – 68) I have an affinity with the West Riding and the Pubs. In my first term I stayed with four other students in a family house in Ikley and travelled into Bradford by bus every day. I did enjoy walking on the moors and going to the Cow and Calf Hotel. Wharfe is the name of a well-known river which flows through Ikley and Wharfedale is the name of the associated valley.

From my days in Yorkshire, I remember drinking a beer called Newcastle Brown. And eating pie and peas, and if I could re-visit, I will sure have a bowl and a pint!

Ted Hughes on Wikipedia – Ted Hughes – Wikipedia

A link to the Stubbing Wharf Hotel – About – The Stubbing Wharf

And a link to Lumb BankArvon | residential creative writing courses and retreats UK

A Message to my Grandson – Michael Thwaites – Comments

A Message to my Grandson
You chose a marvellous morning to be born,
The orange edge of dawn, the stars paling,
The glassy lake, the diamond Autumn air,
The sun breaking in surf on the Brindabellas –
You chose a marvellous morning to be born.
Welcome: And I extend an invitation
To tour your native city; for a start
The view from Ainslie (quite superlative)
Delineates Burley Griffin’s genius, working
After his death, enlisting trees, hills, water
As friends (he hoped) not subjects to his plan.
Then we could visit some outstanding features,
St John’s, the War Memorial, Civic Centre,
The National Library, Parliament House of course,
Regatta Point, the Gardens, Capital Hill…
But those who met you first at your arrival
Have judged my invitation premature.
You were, I hear, quite tired after your journey,
Found our light trying, though intriguing too,
Through flickering lids seemed eager to discover
Just what was going on, but had some trouble
In focusing the things you had in mind,
And close observers felt that you were opting
For further time to orientate yourself.
In point of fact, it seems you waved your hands
In general greeting to your father, mother,
Then, having twice refused some light refreshment,
You went to sleep.
No explanations needed, my dear fellow!
We’ll simply do our tour some other time
Convenient to yourself. The sun is climbing,
The city goes to work, and you are here.
You chose a marvellous morning to be born.
Michael Thwaites (1915 – 2005)

S1 … Autumn is approaching in Canberra, and it is a marvellous time after the heat of summer. The air is so clear and fresh as night temperatures start to drop. The low Brindabella Mountains form an enclosing forever scenic backdrop and surfing is a nice poetic way of expressing any rolling of early mist as it evaporates as the sun takes strength. Birth of a grandson and birth of a day happen to be married to give that special day double remembrance.

S2 … Here is the start of a list of iconic aspects known to Canberrans and those that have visited the city. A tribute to Walter Burley Griffin who was instrumental in the design of Canberra from its very inception, not forgetting his wife who played a dominant part. The beauty of the city is emphasised on this day of beginnings. Canberra does have three distinct Mountains that give splendid views of the city, one of which is Mt Ainslie. Canberra is a Capital city if you excuse the pun.

S3 … First light in the birth with a witty touch of thought by clever use in the personification of the mind of baby. An arrogant wave of hand from baby as he decides enough for now, a little sleep is needed. The suggestion of royalty is so apt.

S4 … Acceptance that much time is needed for baby to understand the city. The sun is climbing / the city goes to work, and you are here. And this is what makes a marvelous autumn morning so more meaningful.

Regarding the invitation for a future understanding, I do not know whether his grandson came to value the city in such a way.

Website – A Message to my Grandson | ThwaitesLink

Wikipedia – Michael Thwaites AO was an Australian academic, poet, and intelligence officer.

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars – Richard Lovelace – Comments

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars
Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind, 
         That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
         To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase, 
         The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
         A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such 
         As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
         Lov’d I not Honour more.
Richard Lovelace (1617 – 1657)

This is a well-known poem by Richard Lovelace who is known as a cavalier poet.  He strongly supported the royalty at the time of the Civil War. It was a very turbulent time in England. He did get injured in battle and eventually died of his wounds.

S1 … RL is trying to placate Lucinda. A religious person perhaps and peace loving

S2 … RL being a soldier gives focus to a new mistress. This implies that a different kind of love is involved.

S3 … RL states that he would not be loved or respected if such Honour were not obeyed. He would not be true to himself. Again, a placating voice.

What exactly is honour and does honour always have precedence? Honour – the quality of knowing and doing what is morally right. Well, we all must make tough decisions according to our conscience.

Richard Lovelace on Wikipedia

The Hawk in the Rain – Ted Hughes – Analysis

Looking in detail at one of Ted Hughes’ most famous poemsThe Hawk in the Rain – Ted Hughes (from The Hawk in the Rain 1957)

A line-by-line progressive commentary …

Hawk and Rain are the two operative words in the title.

I drown in the drumming ploughland, I drag up

I can imagine Ted Hughes walking along the edge of a ploughed field in Yorkshire on a rain filled day. The nature of the rain is clearly stated by the two alliterative words drown and drumming. It is heavy – enough to drown and persistent and dominating as the continual sound of a drum. There is no tin roof sound, but we don’t know what noise is being made against the clothing Ted might be wearing. There is a nice pause after I drag up, enjambment text, text which must flow on to the next line … to be continued … as the rain continues. It gives us time to absorb the on-going background to the poem.

Heel after heel from the swallowing of the earth's mouth,

We now have a picture of movement, of difficulty in walking and the earth becomes a mouth swallowing, what it is exactly swallowing besides water is not known at this stage.

From clay that clutches my each step to the ankle
With the habit of the dogged grave, but the hawk

It is now quite clear that the sodden ground is engulfing Ted. The alliterative clutching clay gives personification to the earth. If you say these two words it has a sticky feel and my each has an awkward construct.

Ted now extends his thoughts to the grave and the ground that will inevitably conquer him. The earth has this habit of taking or absorbing people. But the hawk … again we have enjambment text which must continue, this time to the text of the second stanza.

Effortlessly at height hangs his still eye.
His wings hold all creation in a weightless quiet,

Eye and height define the hawk. In great contrast to Ted who has been focusing on the ground. The hawk has the entire world below him and moreover it is effortless for him to hover in adverse conditions. His eye is still in contrast to the wind and rain.

Steady as a hallucination in the streaming air.
While banging wind kills these stubborn hedges,

We do not know what has drawn Ted to look at the sky but in doing so we sense a degree of envy for the Hawk while the wind destroys below. By choosing hallucination Ted wonders whether this is real and whether the hawk can resist nature in this way.

Thumbs my eyes, throws my breath, tackles my heart,
And rain hacks my head to the bone, the hawk hangs,

Emphasis is given to what is happening at Ted’s level, the wind and the rain taking on the dimension of a murderer, and then he returns his vision to the hawk. We must wait after hangs to go to the next line.

The diamond point of will that polestars
The sea drowner's endurance: And I,

The ability of the hawk to withstand the weather is emphasised by taking the diamond shape confronting the wind and that diamonds are used for cutting. Polestars is a wonderful choice of word it gives eye to the sky and the polestar is a guide and safety symbol. It is used as a verb giving action to the scene. The weather is such that anyone caught at sea is likely to have a most unpleasant time. Then returning to Ted’s predicament, the stanza ends with another pause. It is though the background rain continually interrupts.

Bloodily grabbed dazed last-moment-counting
Morsel in the earth's mouth, strain to the master- 
Fulcrum of violence where the hawk hangs still. 
That maybe in his own time meets the weather

The stanza splits in two again between the hawk and Ted. Ted is about to be devoured akin to the hawk devouring a morsel from the ground. The key word in this stanza is master fulcrum. Fulcrum – the support, or point of rest, on which a lever turns in moving a body.

In the last line consideration is given to the mortality of the hawk and a question is started with a pause at the end of the stanza.

Coming the wrong way, suffers the air, hurled upside-down, 
Fall from his eye, the ponderous shires crash on him, 
The horizon trap him; the round angelic eye 
Smashed, mix his heart's blood with the mire of the land.

In time the hawk will be caught by nature and meet the same fate and the earth will conquer. The ponderous shires crash on him. This bottom-up expression gives strength to the power of the earth to greet the fate of the hawk. Note how this links to the wrong way in the first line.

The angelic eye shows the beauty of the hawk and gives religious tones as of the falling of an angel – even the most perfect of creatures will meet the fate of all – a cry on the nature of nature from one who had so great an affinity with natural world.

Going back to the first line and the first words … I drown in the drumming. This could be translated to life and time. And time is mentioned later in the poem when the hawk meets his downfall – in his own time meets the weather. A negative thought that we are all drowning or dying but drumming does have that repetitive nature like the ticking of a clock. Indeed, we will all be caught by nature and from nature return. There seems to be an emphasis on violence in nature, so again a negativity in the poem. But of course, there is beauty in nature even if the vase is shattered one way or another.

So, ending on a positive, it is good to appreciate beauty and have an angelic view of life. And a case of going back to whence we came giving thanks for existence.

Today the weathering of life has taken on a new dimension as we come to terms with our treatment of the environment and how nature adjusts. Rains and storms have certainly been a feature in recent months across eastern Australia.