Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Walter de la Mare: "Lovely"

The poetry of Walter de la Mare (1873-1956) always retained a Romantic and Victorian air.  Its diction, vocabulary, and subject matter may seem old-fashioned or archaic to some.  De la Mare certainly was not part of the "modernist" project.  All of this troubles me not.  The poetry is still there.

However, if -- for example -- you balk at the irony-free use of the word "lovely" in a poem, you had best steer clear of de la Mare's poetry.  For "lovely" is a word of which he was fond. 


That shining moon -- watched by that one faint star:
Sure now am I, beyond the fear of change,
The lovely in life is the familiar,
And only the lovelier for continuing strange.

Collected Poems (Faber and Faber 1979), page 266.

This is the final stanza of "Fare Well":

Look thy last on all things lovely,
Every hour.  Let no night
Seal thy sense in deathly slumber
     Till to delight
Thou have paid thy utmost blessing;
Since that all things thou wouldst praise
Beauty took from those who loved them
     In other days.

Collected Poems, page 124.


The longed-for summer goes;
Dwindles away
To its last rose,
Its narrowest day.

No heaven-sweet air but must die;
Softlier float
Breathe lingeringly
Its final note.

Oh, what dull truths to tell!
Now is the all-sufficing all
Wherein to love the lovely well,
Whate'er befall.

Collected Poems, page 437.


Nige said...

Have you come across this extraordinary little poem of his?


'What is the world, O soldiers?
It is I:
I, this incessant snow,
This northern sky;
Soldiers, this solitude
Through which we go
Is I.'

Stephen Pentz said...

Nige: Thank you once again for visiting and for commenting. Yes, I was aware of "Napoleon" -- and I agree with you that it is indeed extraordinary. Of all the millions of words written about Napoleon, de la Mare captures his essence (and the essence of any megalomaniac, perhaps) in seven brief lines, doesn't he?