Thursday, March 15, 2012


Randolph Stow (1935-2010) is best known as a novelist -- a novelist who fell silent during the last 26 years of his life.  (However, he did occasionally review books for The Times Literary Supplement.)  I have not read all of his novels, but I do recommend Visitants, The Girl Green as Elderflower, and The Suburbs of Hell (his final novel, published in 1984).  Stow was born in Australia, but his later years were spent in Suffolk and Essex.

He also wrote poetry.  As an alternative to Christina Rossetti's sleep, Philip Larkin's extinction, and Mary Coleridge's interstellar travel, Stow offers a vision of our fate that seems very peaceful (and -- thankfully -- quiet).

                                  Richard Eurich, "Dorset Cove" (1939)


And indeed I shall anchor, one day -- some summer morning
of sunflowers and bougainvillaea and arid wind --
and smoking a black cigar, one hand on the mast,
turn, and unlade my eyes of all their cargo;
and the parrot will speed from my shoulder, and white yachts glide
welcoming out from the shore on the turquoise tide.

And when they ask me where I have been, I shall say
I do not remember.

And when they ask me what I have seen, I shall say
I remember nothing.

And if they should ever tempt me to speak again,
I shall smile, and refrain.

Randolph Stow, A Counterfeit Silence: Selected Poems (Angus & Robertson 1969).

                            Richard Eurich, "Mousehole, Cornwall" (1938)


Clarissa Aykroyd said...

Beautiful poem!

Fred said...

His silence at the end could also describe his career as a novelist.

"And if they should ever tempt me to speak again,
I shall smile, and refrain."

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms Aykroyd: thank you for visiting again. I'm pleased that you like the poem. Much of Stow's poetry is way over my head, but I am fond of this poem.

Stephen Pentz said...

Nice thought, Fred. It does seem, in retrospect, to predict his future, doesn't it? Thank you for stopping by, and for that connection.