Monday, March 19, 2012

"Frozen Ghosts"

Some may disagree, but I think that Charlotte Mew and A. E. Housman do have something in common:  their love poetry is nearly always about either unrequited love or love requited, but lost.  The following poem by Mew seems to depart from the pattern.  Still, I seem to detect a specter of future loss hovering at the edges.  But perhaps I am being unfairly pessimistic.  I would not wish to deprive Mew of any happiness she was able to find.

                                   The Road to Kerity

Do you remember the two old people we passed on the road to Kerity,
Resting their sack, on the stones, by the drenched wayside,
Looking at us with their lightless eyes through the driving rain and then
     out again
To the rocks and the long white line of the tide:
Frozen ghosts that were children once, husband and wife, father and
     mother,
Looking at us with those frozen eyes --; have you ever seen anything quite
     so chilled or so old?
                       But we -- with our arms about each other,
                               We did not feel the cold!

Charlotte Mew, The Farmer's Bride (1921).  Kerity is a sea-side village in Brittany.  Please note that lines 3, 5, and 6 are single lines, but the length limitations of this format do not permit them to appear as such.

                           James McIntosh Patrick, "City Garden" (1979)

The following poem is, alas, more in keeping with the way Mew's life turned out.  But here is the proverbial rub:  poetry is oftentimes born of sadness, isn't it?

               I so liked Spring

    I so liked Spring last year
        Because you were here; --
                The thrushes too --
Because it was these you so liked to hear --
                I so liked you --

        This year's a different thing, --
                I'll not think of you --
But I'll like Spring because it is simply Spring
                As the thrushes do.

Charlotte Mew, The Rambling Sailor (1929).

                            James McIntosh Patrick, "A City Garden" (1940)

4 comments:

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Love them both. Beautiful juxtaposition. Present and absent. Have and lost.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Fredua-Agyeman: thank you for stopping by again. I'm pleased that you like the poems. I'm happy to do my small part to spread the word about Mew's poetry, which deserves a wider audience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Kerridwen said...

These are so fitting for Spring.. Lovely post :)

Stephen Pentz said...

Kerridwen: thank you for visiting, and for your thoughts. I only discovered James McIntosh Patrick's paintings within the past couple of years -- I don't know how I missed them for so long.