Tuesday, 24 November 2015

"Come"

The poem was written in 2013 in extremely rugged blank verse, almost syllabic. In September/October 2016 I revised it to smooth out some of the knots and calluses. The new version is given below. In places it still teeters on the edge of my old failing of statement rather than image.
   The poem is 284 lines in length so for those who have busy lives here's a prose argument:

First Section: Recalls a persistent dream I had in adolescence of myself as an internally-exiled older writer, out of sympathy with the mores of his society, and allowing few visitors.
Second Section: Recalls the setting of the dream in the Rheidol Valley in mid-Wales where I spent childhood holidays with smallholding relatives in the 1950s/early 1960s. Recalls their hard lives and settled beliefs.
Third Section: Considers the state of the British now – destroying their own culture and religion, killing their young, living for materialism. Considers the inevitable effect of mass immigration resulting in the replacement of the indigenous culture, religion and society with those of the incomers.
Fourth Section: Considers the final fate of the British, marginalized and abandoned, identifying myself with them as an exiled figure trying to preserve what is left of the British ‘Great Tradition’, and draws the themes of the self-exiled figure in my adolescent dream, the sturdy folk of the Rheidol Valley in the 1950s, and the dispossessed and marginalized British, together in a final image of the isolated ‘sage’ giving audience to an enquirer seeking to understand the historical fate of a now dying people.

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I
Imagine, first, a sweeping valley, flattened
By age, patched with the strong-grass fields and climbed
By hawthorn hedgerows, combed complainingly
By the fresh west wind. Imagine, next, the steeper
Sides defiling back into the mountains,
With screes like builders’ rubble, with the crouchback
Hazel, and, far below, an intestine-folded
River scribbling its way towards the sea.
Imagine, last, a stone-built house with gables
And patterned chimneys, perching aloof on
The valley side, under the ridge but slapped
By the wind’s gruff hand. That was the bitter place
Which in an adolescent dream I saw
Persistingly; from which, a disabused
And long-toothed man of letters, I would send
Notes to suppliants seeking knowledge, harboured
In the damp town at the valley’s mouth: “Come.”
My novels, balefully delivered over
Many years, had scarified a portentous
Thin-root culture which, destroying icons
And cultic truths, attached instead to gods
Of self, big-bellied, had despoiled the temple’s
Vestments for gaudy party-wear. How I flayed!
Instead of brickbats, though, wealth and respect
Were piled on me by my excoriates
Until, heart-withered and repulsed, I fled
To my valley eyrie shrouded in a cloud
Both turbulent and turbid, forked by lightnings
Which clapped the rolling silence. There, refusing
All contact with the insurgent world below,
Provisioned by a live-in help and buoyed
By sight of the bleak high-wandering buzzard,
Fastidious and brutal, I composed
My jeremiads, fierce as mountain wind
Yet fresh as the jangling, rock-leaping stream.
Infrequently, someone with seeming sense
Would beg an interview, balked in the foot-
Of-valley town until my tardy scrawl
Released him to make pilgrimage these fourteen
Miles to my chilly, silent writing room.
Such was my aggrandizing dream! Mann’s Faustus,
Devoured in passion in my teens – its portrait
Of the cold, high-visioned Leverk├╝hn in thrall
To purchased genius – was much to blame.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Months: Lyrics: November

The poems for March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October in this series were posted on 14 March, 13 April, 9 May, 15 June, 11 July, 8 August, 11 September and 9 October 2015.
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Mid-morning twilight is the brightest hour
And drab is any final rot-bruised flower, 
   The damp-drenched air is thin to breathe,
   Pricking cheek and spotting sleeve; 
      Slugs glisten in the mould,
      Half-stunned by the wet cold.

   The wagtail at the rain-brimmed ruts
   Dashes forlornly, flutters, tuts;
      A florid pheasant lands,
      Running for the stands 
Of filigree and white-bark birch now stripped
Of bile-spot leaves which all night long have dripped.

   The ash trees gape above the waste
   Of straw-blanched roughland grass – a paste
Of mud and water welling through its roots; 
A green-dark hemlock sags beneath its fruits  
      Of sullen rainfall drops –
      November’s bitter slops.

Mid-afternoon, a dusk like devil’s grog
Stuffs the weald’s valleys with creosote fog; 
      In fields and town mist climbs,
      Crisps pools and glass with rimes;
   Cold-thickened night solidifies:
   The wagtails roost with wary eyes. 

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© November 2014