Bowled Over – Ted Hughes – Analysis

Bowled Over

By kiss of death, bullet on brow,
No more life can overpower
That first infatuation, world cannot
Ever be harder or clearer or come
Closer than when it arrived there

Spinning its patched fields, churches
Trees where nightingales sang in broad daylight
And vast flaring blue skirts of sea –
Then sudden insubordination
Of boredom and sleep

When the eyes could not find their keys
Or the neck remember what mother whispered
Or the body stand to its word.

Desertion in the face of a bullet!

Buried without honours.

Ted Hughes 1930 – 1998 (fromWodwo, 1967)

Wodwo – the first release from Ted Hughes following the death of Sylvia Plath in February 1963.

Looking at this poem in the context of the personal life of TH and SP and not just the loss of first love euphoria …

S1 … well that first intense feeling of love, falling in love when young and foolish, never to come again perhaps – in short being bowled over (apt cricket words for a Yorkshire man) – and a knock-out blow as in a kiss of death or bullet on the brow … this is a reflection looking back to that feeling – and what a feeling it was – the world never harder never clearer – my immediate thoughts on that first encounter of TH with SP, reflecting back some four years after her death … would that feeling ever come again … a very hard road after the death of SP and the catering for his two children from their marriage

S2 … this is what it is all about … love sending the mind spinning – a dizzy feeling as the environment adjusts to the euphoria and nightingales sing in daylight … shows how the world changes with emotional state – but then the last two lines – insubordination, disobedience, a rebellion boredom and sleep … the coming down from the hilltop … putting into the context of his broken marriage a self-disobedience (but living with SP and her mental instability not easy)

S3 … the resultant effect of his disobedience – eyes could not find their keys – what a wonderful way of saying that he could never unlock the door to the way it was … and
the neck never able to remember – thinking of the comfort of a mother to a boy in bed who could not rest … and then in terms of words – false to the word, false to the word of love by his disobedience

S4 … desertion in the face of a bullet (love) … perhaps this maybe the way he feels … well it was his initiative when he left SP – however, he didn’t completely desert her and cared very much for her well-being and helped her find accommodation in London

S5 … Buried without honours … a sense of depression on the way things had turned out … perhaps a wish he had stayed with SP – especially after the aftermath resultant from her tragic death … love buried without honours.

Independent of the personal context of TH and SP. This poem is a look back on the common life experience of first love euphoria after the relationship has ended for whatever reason. The relationship always remains part of us in some form or other. Whether it is buried without honours or carried forward as a latent embellishment is another matter.

TH served as  UK Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death in 1998. A link to Ted Hughes on Wikipedia.

An Inevitable

An Inevitable
(a follow-up to ‘An Unseen’ by Carol Ann Duffy)

I watched death come, anticipating, tears, cold,
empty, taking away;
deep winter, hard crunch on barren ground, life-unborn.
Death forever patient, today, tomorrow
each farewell, the future known, an inevitable.

Down the long corridor, day after day, to her room
my hello, her departing,
death, arms wide open, to embrace
bedside waiting, for that moment
when all moments coalesce.

Silence, forever silence
the remnant, memories, imprint
death-gift receipt, for the living,
before a church service, the walk home
the mind a ransom.

Richard Scutter May 2017

An Unseen – Carol Ann Duffy – Comments

An Unseen

I watched love leave, turn, wave, want not to go,
depart, return;
late spring, a warm slow blue of air, old-new.
Love was here; not; missing, love was there;
each look, first, last.

Down the quiet road, away, away, towards
the dying time,
love went, brave soldier, the song dwindling;
walked to the edge of absence; all moments going,
gone; bells through rain

to fall on the carved names of the lost.
I saw love’s child uttered,
unborn, only by rain, then and now, all future
past, an unseen. Has forever been then? Yes,
forever has been.

Carol Ann Duffy (1955 –

S1 … Carol Ann Duffy uses few words and grammar to accentuate the way love is articulated in everyday life. Love, or perhaps intense feelings, is always associated with personal departure whether permanent or not and the return greeting after absence if there is one. This depart-return cycle is portrayed in the season of late spring the old becoming new again (old-new) expressing the repeat of nature; of love. S1 ending with the ubiquitous nature of love in terms of looking and seeing another from first sight to the last sight.

S2 … now we have specific circumstance – the departure of soldiers to war – ‘the song dwindling’ gives the impression of soldiers moving away into the distance and I do like the way CAD expresses their precarious situation – ‘the edge of absence’ and the likelihood of a permanent departure, likewise equating death as giving no future to the soldier – ‘all moments going’.

S3 … interesting how a Church service in the rain with inscriptions to dead soldiers is implied indirectly by CAD’s words … and how love’s child is uttered and then unborn – a telling statement to the death of the young … who have no future and their future is their completed life – now in the forever … they are the forever has been … love is always the forever has been.

A very poignant poem defining grief and the suffering of those left behind. Grief comes in many shapes and sizes. Those that went or go to war usually have some expectation that things may not turn out well and they may not return. But life is fragile and the unseen can always occur, a car coming round a corner on the wrong side of the road. The atrocity in Manchester last week was totally unseen. An alien philosophy carried out by a warped mind contrary to the natural flow of decency and respect for humanity. My heart and thoughts go out to all those families in grief. For so many young people their future forever has been.

The Unlucky Christ – Peter Porter – Analysis

The Unlucky Christ

Wherever they put down roots
he will be there, the Master-Haunter
who is our sample and our
would-be deliverer. Argue this-
there were men before him,
as there were dreams before events,
as there is (or perhaps is not)
conservation of energy. So he
is out of time but once stopped here
in time. What I am thinking
may be blasphemy, that I
and like him, one who cannot
let go of unhappiness, who has
come closer to him through suffering
and loathes the idea. The ego now,
and must be like a ministry,
the sense of being chosen among men
to be acquainted with grief!
Why not celebrate instead
the wayside cactus which enriches
the air with a small pink flower?
Some people can take straight off
from everyday selfishness to
the mystical, but the vague shape
of the Professional Sorrower
seems to interpose when I try
such transport. The stone had to roll
and the cerements sit up
because he would have poisoned
the world. It has been almost possible
to get through this poem without writing
the word death. The smallest
of our horrors. When they saw him
again on the road, at least they knew
that the task of misery would be
explained, the evangelical duty
properly underlined. Tell them
about bad luck, he said,
how people who get close to you
want to walk out on you,
tell them they may meet one person
even more shrouded than themselves.
Jesus’s message at Pentecost
sounded as our news always does,
that there is eloquence and decency,
but as for happiness,
it is involuntary like hell.

Peter Porter (1929 -2010)

Everybody has heard of Jesus and many have had some introduction on Christian philosophy. So perhaps JC can be considered to ‘haunt’ life. Where haunt is to trouble, disturb or worry people. And indeed there were men before him without any specific knowledge on the life of JC akin to ‘dreams before events’.

PP, who was known as quite a depressive person, strongly identifies with the suffering and unhappiness in the life of JC. As if he, like JC, was chosen to be acquainted in this way –
                             ‘the sense of being chosen among men
                              to be acquainted with grief’

Grief is endemic in life – perhaps PP thinks he has had an undue share. His mother died when he was quite young and his first wife committed suicide leaving two young girls needing support. For those who know the poetry of PP unhappiness is a feature of many of his poems. PP stating that he has a stone of unhappiness caught in the lining of his pocket (see his poem What I have written I have written).

It is common to think of JC as the Professional Redeemer rather than the different perspective of being the Professional Sufferer.

But why not celebrate other aspects of life that are not linked to suffering? –
                               ‘the wayside cactus which enriches
                                the air with a small pink flower’
I think one reason is that we are often caught in a non-acceptance of death and want a life continuation. Perhaps we worry too much!

However JC did complete his ‘almighty task’ The cerements sit up being burial clothes. And his suffering was explained – did have a purpose. Life eternal. Nice that PP, a writer,
properly underlines the evangelical duty.

But PP is hung up on bad luck – and continues in that tone mentioning those that have been close in life and then they deceive. Perhaps inference can be made to his Mother’s early death or the suicide of his first wife.

The last line states his position – there is no control on happiness, happiness is involuntary and he has been fated. He has chosen to concentrate on the negativities – I think this is an unfortunate life-script.

And although JC was perhaps the most unlucky of all men there is one consolation he had support from the most powerful and we do not know how this manifested itself in his life experience on earth. I think JC did say ‘my yoke is easy’ but maybe this is quite hard for us unknowing mortals to understand.

PP a distinguished Australian poet who based his life in London and was at one time a candidate for the Professor of Poetry at Oxford. A Wikipedia link.

Remembrance – Emily Bronte – analysis

Remembrance

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?

Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy noble heart forever, ever more?

Cold in the earth—and fifteen wild Decembers,
From those brown hills, have melted into spring:
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!

Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
While the world’s tide is bearing me along;
Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!

No later light has lightened up my heaven,
No second morn has ever shone for me;
All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given,
All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee.

But, when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.

Then did I check the tears of useless passion—
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine.

And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in memory’s rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?

Emily Bronte

Eight four line stanzas with rhyming scheme abab. It is regarded as iambic pentameter though the lines vary in syllables – so iambic pentameter with variations …

And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
^ ^^ ^ ^ / ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^ = 11
Dare not indulge in memory’s rapturous pain;

Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
^ ^^ ^ ^ / ^ ^^^ ^^ = 11
How could I seek the empty world again?
^ ^ ^ ^ ^ / ^^ ^ ^^ = 10

Emily Bronte wrote the poem for the heroine in the ‘Gondal’ story she created with her sister Anne – so it doesn’t relate to any personal event in her life.

C. Day Lewis stated that the effect of the rhythm in ‘Remembrance’ is ‘extremely powerful, extremely appropriate’ and that ‘it is the slowest rhythm he knew in English poetry, and the most sombre.’

It is certainly a slow and sombre lamentation. It also uses repetition to remain caught in any forward movement as in – cold in the earth in the opening line of stanza 1 and stanza 2. And in stanza 5 – All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given, / All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee, also the repeat of dare not in the last stanza.

The last stanza indicates a moving on and a more positive ending than remaining wallowing in the grave of another.

I think one syllable words lend themselves to a slow rendition (e.g. cold, snow, slow). Consider – the old train moves down the track – by a slow reading we can give the impression that the train is moving slowly.

To digress, consider these two lines …
Quick Mick do it – a case of not labouring the words and joining ‘do’ and ‘it’ as one.
John shook hands with great aunt Jo – difficult not to take your time when reading. If aunt Jo is old and feeble John would have to take his time when shaking hands!

Bimbo – Bruce Dawe

Bimbo

The house and garden are in joint
ambush to jolt us into remembering
the lawns where you rolled whenever we returned,
the scratched back door when it was thundering,
the spot by the fowl-house where you sat,
pricked-ears, for hours, listening to the chickens,
the raised flooring where you slept every night
– all around us now the plot thickens,
the lines of your life run deep: the book closed,
you run on in our own mortal quest
and where we had thought the story ended
we can see now you will not let us rest
but compel us to attend you just the same,
lamenting the bones buried deep
under the latest seed-beds and defying
your present muddy-nosed long sleep,
rousing yourself at the needle’s first touch,
shrewd, beautiful as always, and the storm
of feelings in our hearts is where you now lay your head
and we stroke your ears, velvet warm.

Bruce Dawe

This is a very poignant poem on the loss of a much loved family dog. Bimbo had obviously been part of home and garden for many years. The absence defines the grief – the house and garden never quite the same and they continue to give joint ambush.

But in line eight the plot thickens … there are more lines, as there are more lines to the story of the family who must attend to the aftermath of the dog who has left bones buried deep.

And then the death of the dog is remembered – rousing yourself at the needle’s first touch and the intense feelings still lie warm – touching the family as before in a very direct way.

This is very much a poem about grief associated with the early days of loss. Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘The Walk’ comes to mind, incidentally Hardy was very much a dog lover.

A link to Bruce Dawe on Wikipedia

Yesterday and Today

Yesterday and Today

Yesterday God decided to take a holiday
and I really can’t blame him at all, I mean
he must have been a little disappointed
with one of his projects going a little off track,
and working twenty-four by seven over the
centuries is, I imagine, quite demanding.
I am sure God knows where to go for a break
and I am sure he won’t want us to turn up!

Today is a little different, I’m happy to report that
the sun is breaking through threatening clouds and
the waste-paper bin is empty, sprawled out on
his desk are the original drawings, a little crumpled,
maybe he believes things can be straightened out –
perhaps he has far more faith than you or I.

Richard Scutter 20 July 2014

The news of late has been so sickening and I have felt physically sick inside. Goodness knows  how others feel that are immediately affected by the inhumanity in whatever country. I just had to get out into fresh air and wash the mind from the media concentration on the horrific events fracturing the world.

We went for a walk on part of the Canberra Centenary Trail. It was a typical beautiful winter sky after night temperatures below freezing and then sunshine all day. Perfect conditions for bushwalking although you had to be careful because the track was quite slippery after recent rains and the melting of icy mud. The image below is from the Red Rocks Lookout along the Murrumbidgee river between Kambah Pool and Tuggeranong Town Centre, Canberra.

RedRockLookOut

And here is a link to a poem by W. H. Auden in relation to suffering.