Monday, August 16, 2010

Ink, Insects, And Candlelight: Thomas Hardy And Walter De La Mare

For no other reason than that it is now August, I recently revisited the following poem by Thomas Hardy:

              An August Midnight

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter -- winged, horned, and spined --
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While 'mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands . . .

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
-- My guests parade my new-penned ink,
Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl, and sink.
'God's humblest, they!' I muse.  Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

                                 Graham Sutherland, "Lammas" (1926)

After reading the poem, it occurred to me that, within the past year or so, I had read another poem that featured ink, insects, and candlelight.  At my age, notions such as this often arrive without particulars.  However, I have found that, if I quietly refer the notion to my brain, and patiently wait, the particulars will usually arrive later.  In time, I remembered the poem.  It is by Walter de la Mare:


This evening to my manuscript
Flitted a tiny fly;
At the wet ink sedately sipped,
Then seemed to put the matter by,
Mindless of him who wrote it, and
His scrutinizing eye --
That any consciousness indeed
Its actions could descry! . . .

Silence; and wavering candlelight;
Night; and a starless sky.

Inward Companion (1950).  (The ellipses are in the original.)

                                                 Stanley Roy Badmin
                            "Evening Light Near Sevenoaks, Kent" (1930)


Anonymous said...

These don't count, there's no ink! -- but they popped into my head as I was reading the Hardy poem.

One is Sassoom's disturbing "Repression of War Experience"

Now light the candles; one; two; there's a moth;
What silly beggars they are to blunder in
And scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame -- ....

and the other one is Blunden's "Sick-Bed"

Half dead with fever, here in bed I sprawl,
In candlelight watching the odd flies crawl
Across the ceiling's bleak white desolation;
Can they not yet have heard of gravitation?
Hung upside down above the precipice
To doze the night out; ignorance is bliss!
Your blood be on your heads, ridiculous flies....

Stephen Pentz said...

Anonymous: Thank you very much for visiting, and for giving us the lines from Sassoon and Blunden!

As for the lines having no ink: no problem whatsoever - I will soon be posting insect poems by James Reeves and Christina Rossetti that came to mind, and there will be no ink involved.

Thank you again.