At the end of two months’ … – Stephen Spender – Analysis

At the end of two months’ holiday there came a night
When I lay awake and the sea’s distant fretless scansion
By imagination scourged rose to a fight
Like the town’s roar, pouring out apprehension.
I was in a train. Like the quick spool of a film
I watched hasten away the simple green which can heal
All sadness. Abruptly the sign Ferry to Wilm
And the cottage by the lake, were vivid, but unreal.
Real where iron lines, and, smashing the grass
The cars in which we ride, and real our compelled time:
Painted on enamel beneath the moving glass
Unreal were cows, the wave-winged storks, the lime:
These burned in a clear world from which we pass
Like rose and love in a forgotten rhyme.

Stephen Spender (1909 -1995)

Scansion = the way a poem scans according to the rules of metre
Scourge = agent of punishment

A sonnet with rhyming scheme ‘abab’.

Lines 1-4 … It seems to be the end of a holiday and lying in bed SS listens to the sea which … if the sea is a poem the sea has a fretless rhythm … the natural unthinking motion of the sea … in his imagination SS is perhaps reminded that he has to do likewise in his poetry now that his holiday is over. It looks as though he has escaped from poetry work to go to the country and he is now going back to town life … and another sound occurs a roar is in an apprehensive ear … for he doesn’t know how he will deal with getting back to work … presumably in an urban environment in contrast to the country.

Lines 5-8 … he is in a train reflecting on the holiday … the simple green that can heal all sadness … he has been in the country away from his normal life at a time when he has needed healing … but now that time has gone … it is real in his mind – the cottage, the Ferry to Wilmington?, the lake … but it is also unreal because of the removal by the passage of the train – like the quick spool of a film … history

Lines 9-12 … what is real is compelled time – what he is forced to do … what is real is the movement of the train compared to the outside scene … the painted enamel beneath the window is a metaphor for the change … a great contrast to the countryside

Lines 13-14 … the countryside burned (destroyed) in the clear world seen through the glass of the window … and to connect with poetry again like losing rose and love in a forgotten rhyme … the unclear world of poetry?

This is quite a brilliant poem about being a poet and having to perform.

Stephen Spender on Wikipedia

The Meaning of Existence – Les Murray

Several years ago I had the pleasure of attending a reading by Les Murray in Canberra. The following poem was read from a wide selection …

The Meaning of Existence

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.
Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.

Les Murray (1939 – 2019) from Poems the Size of Photographs, 2002

In the light of the above poem … the ignorant freedom of my talking mind … I asked him whether he had made the right choice in life … an emphatic yes …words are what he had do … if ignored they would have digested him … he was doing what he had to do.

In Europe he was once asked what a poem was … a poem is a song without music … searching for the words behind the music.

He died at the age of 80 on 29 April. He will be remembered for his clever manipulation of words, great repartee, quick witted and a prodigious producer of poetry. A great example is his fast flowing verse novel character Fredy Neptune, 1998 where LM comes to terms with life and his own spiritual understanding of existence. And, of course, he will be remembered for his vernacular love of the Australian rural country. Today there is a memorial service for him at the NSW State Library in Sydney.

From the Memorial Service … https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-poems-are-the-thing-tribute-to-the-great-les-murray-20190612-p51wvh.html

Les Murray on Wikipedia

 

Goodnight – Shelley

Poets play with words and Shelley was no exception … clearly evident in the following poem …

Goodnight

Goodnight? ah no, the night is ill
Which severs those it should unite;
Let us remain together still,
Then it will be good night.

How can I call the lone night good,
Though thy sweet wishes wing its flight?
Be it not said, thought, understood;
Then it will be good night.

To hearts which near each other move
From evening close to morning light
The night is good; because my love,
They never say goodnight.

P. B. Shelley (1792 – 1822)

It is essential to have the words before you to understand this poem. There is a difference between good night and goodnight!

In stanza one the night will not be good if ‘you’ are not by my side, implying a close relationship with someone.

In stanza two the night will not be good if there is thought or an understanding of a separation; even though the person has sweet wishes.

And in stanza three, for those that are in total commune with their soulmates, there is no need to say goodnight – no break in the spiritual connection that Shelley associates with the word goodnight. The night will always be good.

The philosophy and poetry of P. B. Shelley

Shelley on Wikipedia.

 

Nurse no longer grief – Mary Gilmore

Nurse no long grief

Oh, could we weep,
And weeping bring relief!
But life asks more than tears
And falling leaf.

Though year by year
Tears fall and leaves are shed,
Spring bids new sap arise,
And blood run red.

Nurse no long grief
Lest the heart flower no more;
Grief builds no barns; its plough
Rusts at the door.

Dame Mary Gilmore (1865 – 1962)

This is a simple poem with a strong message. Grief is necessary but long grief not. The life events that cause grief can never be removed and how we internalise and deal with them is an individual matter. In the last two lines Mary Gilmore alludes to action as a way of escape – go build your barn and use your plough.

Mary Gilmore is the great-great aunt of the current Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. On the 50th anniversary of her death in 2012 he delivered a tribute to her in federal parliament.

Scott Morrison was elected as Prime Minister of Australia for a further 3 years on 18 May 2019 to the great surprise of the Labour Party who had been strongly favoured to win. How that Party deals with such grief is being worked out.

Mary Gilmore had to survive life when nursing many radical political views.

Mary Gilmore on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Gilmore

i thank you God – e e cummings – analysis

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e e cummings (1894 – 1962) (in ‘complete poems 1904 – 1962’)

This is a Sunday praise poem … the birth of another week … the birth of another day. And someone once said that each day is a new life. I can’t help thinking of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and all that happened on a glorious English summer June day in her party arrangements and the entertaining of friends.

This is a thankyou in recognition of the boundless happening of all that is Earth (illimitably – having no bounds).

And a statement that God can be found in the natural world.

Life is to be tasted, touched, heard, seen and breathed in all its immeasurable wonder. And in the last two lines there is a spiritual awakening expressed in terms of hearing and seeing.

And e e c had this prayer his only be want was he be he

(‘may I be I is the only prayer—not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong’)

An excellent discussion of this poem is on this Art and Theology site.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he was raised, a pastor’s son, in the Unitarian faith, which emphasizes the oneness of God. As an adult he wed this spiritual framework to Emersonian transcendentalism, a philosophical movement that celebrates humanity and nature. Elements from these two complementary traditions can be detected in his praise poem “i thank You God for most this amazing,” in which the natural world triggers an awakening to Truth. And for Cummings, Truth is a person, a “You” with a capital Y.

e e cummings on Wikipedia.

Fall – Mary Oliver – Analysis

Fall

the black oaks fling
their bronze fruit
into all the pockets of the earth
pock pock

they knock against the thresholds
the roof the sidewalk
fill the eaves
the bottom line

of the old gold song
of the almost finished year
what is spring all that tender
green stuff

compared to this
falling of tiny oak trees
out of the oak trees
then the clouds

gathering thick along the west
then advancing
then closing over
breaking open

the silence
then the rain
dashing its silver seeds
against the house

Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019)

Well it is autumn in the southern hemisphere and in this part of the world. This is a poem from Mary Oliver based on an American autumn where there are a proliferation of oak trees, and there are many types of oak trees too.

S1 … I guess acorns fall all over the place into nooks and crannies … or as she puts it pock pocking into the pockets of the earth … … I like the use of onomatopoeia … they do have a round sort of shape enabling them to roll into all sorts of places
S2 … they must make a noise as they fall … knocking against the thresholds … coming to rest at the edges like filling the eaves in a line … and the trees could be regarded as flinging them if it is windy.
S3 … and autumn is gold and comes at the finish of the year in the northern hemisphere … and Mary Oliver delights in autumn … in contrast to the dull stereo type that highlights spring as the so called brighter season
S4 … and she loves the falling of the acorns … oak trees out of oak trees … well, potentially oak trees … (the acorns are great fodder for pigs of course … and I do like the little hats they wear)
S5 … then the weather dictates her thoughts … you can imagine her watching from a window as clouds gather in intensity and the pre-storm silence is broken by the dashing of rain (lashing would have been my preference)
S6 … and the rain makes itself known to those inside the house … rain = silver seeds … an equation giving value to water and a nice word fit to the acorn=seed … and rain does seed into the ground too.

Mary Oliver a lover of nature.

A link to Mary Oliver on Wikipedia

And a tribute link, for she died earlier this year

 

Les Murray: A Tribute

Two days ago Les Murray died at the age of 80. He was a poet of immense stature and regarded as Australia’s Poet Laureate.

I was actually planting broad bean seeds and when I came in and heard the news my mind immediately went to his ‘Broad Bean Sermon’ poem.

He did experience Canberra at certain stages in his life and had that wry sense of humour … roundabouts being in proliferation at the time …

The interstate driver soon discerns
That twelve identical statues of Burns
Are unlikely even in this braw town
And that there are Circles, interwound
To test, by his cunning and his mettle,
Whether he shall go home, or settle

And the following are details from Peter Alexander’s book – ‘Les Murray – A Life in Progress’ …

In July 1996 an ambulance drove Les Murray into John Hunter hospital Newcastle (NSW) with a very serious liver complaint. He was wheeled into casualty and prepared for immediate surgery. Convinced he was dying he felt neither fear not regret at the prospect. Wheeled rapidly down wide corridors, he stared unblinking at lights passing rhythmically above him:

Ribbed glass glare-panels flow
over you down urgent corridors,
dismissing midday outside. Slow,

they’d resemble wet spade-widths in a pit;
you’ve left grief behind you, for others;
your funeral: who’ll know you’d re-planned it?

God, at the end of prose,
somehow be our poem-
where forebrainy consciousness goes

I can not help thinking of the these thought provoking words too –

Just two hours after
Eternal Life pills came out
Someone took thirty.

(ref: page 146, of the same book)

A tribute from poet John Kinsella.

And Les Murray on Wikipedia.

His words will live on especially his vernacular representation of the Australian bush landscape he loved.

May he be at peace; perhaps with a new poem to play and ponder.

 The Company of Lovers – Judith Wright – ANZAC Day

 The Company of Lovers

We meet and part now over all the world;
we, the lost company,
take hands together in the night, forget
the night in our brief happiness, silently.
We, who sought many things, throw all away
for this one thing, one only,
remembering that in the narrow grave
we shall be lonely.

Death marshals up his armies round us now.
Their footsteps crowd too near.
Lock your warm hand above the chilling heart
and for a time I live without my fear.
Grope in the night to find me and embrace,
for the dark preludes of the drums begin,
and round us round the company of lovers,
death draws his cordons in.

Judith Wright (1915 -2000)

This poem was written during World War II which brought much separation especially for those travelling from Australia to the various battlefields.

A precious pre-leaving meet between lovers … with no thought of tomorrow … forget the night … for some the long unending night … and those that never returned leave the grave narrow and lonely for any surviving lovers. Today we remember.

There is that foreboding and anticipation of the worst … death draws his cordons in

Another of my favourite Judith Wright poems, again with a cerrtain sense of foreboding, is … ‘Trains’  – Judith Wright