Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"The Planet On The Table"

I have often referred to the excellence of Wallace Stevens's late poems, particularly those that he wrote in his seventies.  Few poets have written so well at that age.  (Although I should note that Thomas Hardy has Stevens beat: he continued to write fine poetry into his eighties, and dictated his final poem on his death-bed at the age of 87.)

The following poem reflects Stevens's lifelong subject: the back-and-forth between the world and the imagination, and the results of that continual movement.  This creative movement was, for Stevens, the essence of what it means to be human.

        Thomas Henslow Barnard, "Landscape with Ludlow Castle" (1952)

        The Planet on the Table

Ariel was glad he had written his poems.
They were of a remembered time
Or of something seen that he liked.

Other makings of the sun
Were waste and welter
And the ripe shrub writhed.

His self and the sun were one
And his poems, although makings of his self,
Were no less makings of the sun.

It was not important that they survive.
What mattered was that they should bear
Some lineament or character,

Some affluence, if only half-perceived,
In the poverty of their words,
Of the planet of which they were part.

Wallace Stevens, "The Rock" (1954) in Collected Poetry and Prose (The Library of America 1997).

Although Stevens writes about his own poems in "The Planet on the Table," I believe that he would recognize that all of us -- whether poets or not -- are capable of creating our own "poems" ("makings of the sun" and "makings of [the] self") whenever we engage in the back-and-forth movement between the imagination and the world.  We are all capable of creating a planet on a table.

                                  Thomas Henslow Barnard, "Still Life"

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Times Have Changed"

When a politician makes a public pronouncement, do you get the feeling that he or she thinks that the people to whom he or she is speaking (i.e., you and me) are credulous yokels?  Do you get the same feeling when a government bureaucrat or a media shill holds forth?

Do you notice that politicians, bureaucrats, and media shills have an infinite capacity to be both disingenuous and supercilious, no matter how sincere they attempt to sound?

It has ever been so, of course.  One Dark Age follows another.  Only the outer particulars change.

                                   Stanley Spencer, "The Bridge" (1920)


Times have changed.
Remember the helplessness
Of the serfs,
The inexplicable tyrannies
Of the lords.

But times have changed.
All is explained to us
In expert detail.
We trail the logic of our lords
Inch by inch.

The serfs devised religions,
And sad and helpful songs.
Sometimes they ran away,
There was somewhere to run to.
Times have changed.

D. J. Enright, The Old Adam (1965).

I harbor no illusions that we can dispense with this cast of characters.  I do know this: you can keep them away from your thoughts and your feelings. And, remember: they have absolutely nothing to do with poetry and art, which, to them, are alien and unreal spheres.  How fortunate for the rest of us.

                                Stanley Spencer, "The Roundabout" (1923)

Saturday, May 26, 2012


I'd like to stay with the subject of "fair after foul weather" for a moment longer.  The following two poems are about unexpected illuminations in a literal sense.  But there are other dimensions implied as well.

                                          Benozzo Gozzoli (c. 1420-1497)
                                "The Journey of the Magi" (detail) (1459)

   Illumination: On the Track by Loch Fewin

Suddenly the sun poured
through an arrow-slit in the clouds
and the great hall we walked in -- its tapestries
of mountains and parquet of rich
bogland and water -- blazed on the eye
like the Book of Kells.

For four days a cloud
had sat like a lid on the round
horizon.  But now
we walked in a mediaeval manuscript --
doves flew over the thorn, the serpent
of wisdom whispered
in our skulls and our hands
were transparent with love.

Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2009). Loch Fewin (or "Fionn Loch") is located in northwestern Scotland.

                      Benozzo Gozzoli, "The Journey of the Magi" (detail)

The following poem by R. S. Thomas (which has appeared here before, but which is worth revisiting) is remarkably similar to MacCaig's poem both in atmosphere (although the setting is Wales, not Scotland) and in spirit. (And not solely because the word "illumination" appears in one poem, while the word "illuminate" appears in the other!)  It is, I think, one of Thomas's finest poems.

                       Benozzo Gozzoli, "The Journey of the Magi" (detail)

            The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it.  But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it.  I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it.  Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past.  It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R. S. Thomas, Laboratories of the Spirit (1975).

                      Benozzo Gozzoli, "The Journey of the Magi" (detail)

Thursday, May 24, 2012


"Fair after foul weather" -- the subject of my previous post -- got me to thinking about one of my favorite poems by Edward Thomas.  Thomas started writing poetry in December of 1914, and he wrote the following poem during that month.

When Thomas was debating with himself whether to begin writing poetry, Robert Frost suggested to him that he should, as a start, turn some of his descriptive prose passages into verse.  "Interval" is not, unlike some of Thomas's poems, traceable to a specific passage in his prose writings. However, one can see that he took Frost's advice to heart: the first six stanzas are wholly descriptive.  Of course, to call them merely "descriptive" is to sell them short: very few poets (or writers in general) are capable of writing with such deceptively simple depth.

Then, in the final two stanzas, the touch that makes Thomas who he is (and, I believe, a great poet) comes to the fore:  the sudden turn into a wider realm that is intensely personal and, at the same time, common to us all. Very few poets are capable of carrying this off on a consistent basis. Thomas is one of those who does so, again and again.

                                   Robin Tanner, "Martin's Hovel" (1927)


Gone the wild day:
A wilder night
Coming makes way
For brief twilight.

Where the firm soaked road
Mounts and is lost
In the high beech-wood
It shines almost.

The beeches keep
A stormy rest,
Breathing deep
Of wind from the west.

The wood is black,
With a misty steam.
Above, the cloud pack
Breaks for one gleam.

But the woodman's cot
By the ivied trees
Awakens not
To light or breeze.

It smokes aloft
It hunches soft
Under storm's wing.

It has no care
For gleam or gloom:
It stays there
While I shall roam,

Die, and forget
The hill of trees,
The gleam, the wet,
This roaring peace.

Edna Longley (editor), Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books 2008).

Note how each of the first six stanzas is a single sentence.  Each stanza is similar in spirit and in imagery (although not in form) to a haiku.  (I am not suggesting that Thomas modeled the stanzas on the haiku form.  This is simply how they strike me.)  The final two stanzas -- which make the turn into the wider realm -- consist of a single sentence that runs across the stanzas.

As is often the case in Thomas's poetry (and prose), death makes an appearance. But, please note: Thomas is not morbidly obsessed with mortality.  Honesty was always his instinctive governing principle.  If death makes an appearance -- or love or beauty -- so be it.  Whatever is in one of his poems is there because it is true to what Thomas thought and felt.  Remember: "True and not feigning."

                                  Paul Drury, "March Morning" (1933)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Hope Well And Have Well: Or, Fair After Foul Weather"

Perhaps it is the news of the world.  Or perhaps it is simply this week's weather forecast: five days of rain.  Whatever the cause, I feel the need for a gleam of sunlight, for bright blue and gold.  Robert Herrick and Derek Mahon may do the trick.

       Hope Well and Have Well:
      Or, Fair After Foul Weather

What though the heaven be lowering now,
And look with a contracted brow?
We shall discover, by-and-by,
A repurgation of the sky;
And when those clouds away are driven,
Then will appear a cheerful heaven.

Robert Herrick, Hesperides (1648).

                    Claughton Pellew, "The Windmill, Sheringham" (1925)

     Everything Is Going To Be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

Derek Mahon, Poems 1962-1978 (Oxford University Press 1979).

                            Laura Knight (1877-1970), "Valley at Evening"

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Of Growing Old Lots Of Kindly Things Have Been Reported"

As a preface to the following poem, I would like to state that I am not complaining -- nor will I ever complain -- about "growing old."  I think that complaining about one's age displays an unseemly ingratitude towards life. Nonetheless, it is entirely possible that I will one day become a querulous curmudgeon.  (Of course, I may already be a querulous curmudgeon and simply not realize it.)

All of this being said, there are certain unavoidable consequences of "growing old."  (Bearing in mind that one might "grow old" at 30 as well as at 90 -- it is all in the mind, you know.)  I think that the following poem by D. J. Enright recognizes some of these realities, while only sounding a bit querulous (though in a humorous fashion).

                          Robert Kirkland Jamieson, "Early Spring" (c. 1930)

            Of Growing Old

They tell you of the horny carapace
Of age,
But not of thin skin growing thinner,
As if it's wearing out.

They say, when something happens
For the sixth or seventh time
It does not touch you.  Yet
You find that each time's still the first.

To know more isn't to forgive more,
But to fear more, knowing more to fear.
Memory it seems is entering its prime,
Its lusty manhood.  Or else

Virility of too-ripe cheese --
And there's another name for that,
One can mature excessively.
Give me cheese-tasters for psychiatrists!

Of growing old
Lots of kindly things have been reported.
Surprising that so few are true.
Is this a matter for complaint?  I don't know.

D. J. Enright, Sad Ires (1975).

                                 Robert Kirkland Jamieson, "The Pool"

Enright's lines "To know more isn't to forgive more,/But to fear more, knowing more to fear" are strikingly reminiscent of a line in one of my favorite poems by James Reeves (which I have posted here before).

                   To Not Love

One looked at life in the prince style, shunning pain.
Now one has seen too much not to fear more.
Apprehensive, it seems, for all one loves,
One asks only to not love, to not love.

James Reeves, Subsong (1969).

                   Robert Kirkland Jamieson, "Snow In My Garden" (1932)

Friday, May 18, 2012


Here is something to think about:  what will your epitaph be?  I am not proposing that we dwell upon this question in a morbid fashion.  However, a few moments of reflection on the matter may help to put things into perspective.

For instance, Robert Herrick was fond of composing epitaphs, both for himself and for others (sometimes while they were still alive).  Here is his epitaph for his beloved maid Prudence (who went by the name "Prue" and who out-lived Herrick by nearly four years):

     Upon Prue, His Maid

In this little urn is laid
Prudence Baldwin, once my maid,
From whose happy spark here let
Spring the purple violet.

Robert Herrick, Hesperides (1648).  One could do much worse than to be described as a "happy spark" in one's epitaph, don't you think?

                                                      John Brett
           "The British Channel Seen From The Dorsetshire Cliffs" (1871)

Herrick's proposed epitaph for himself is more sober.  He seems to have been a merry soul (much of the time).  But he saw things clearly and did not dissemble.

                    On Himself

Lost to the world; lost to myself; alone
Here now I rest under this marble stone:
In depth of silence, heard and seen of none.

Ibid.  An aside: "In depth of silence, heard and seen of none" brings to mind Christina Rossetti, who, as I have noted before, was wont to think of death as a restful, profound sleep.  Thus, for example: "One day it will be sweet/To shut our eyes . . ."

                                Harold Jones, "The Black Door" (c. 1935)

I would prefer something along the following lines.  (Although, mind you, I am not deluded enough to think that, at this point in my life, I deserve it or in any way qualify for it!)  The life described -- one of dignity and of simple (not simplistic) nobility -- is one to which we can all aspire.  And happy we should be if we come close to attaining it.

                 At His Father's Grave

Here lies a shoemaker whose knife and hammer
Fell idle at the height of summer,
Who was not missed so much as when the rain
Of winter brought him back to mind again.

He was no preacher but his working text
Was See all dry this winter and the next.
Stand still.  Remember his two hands, his laugh,
His craftsmanship.  They are his epitaph.

John Ormond, Requiem and Celebration (1969).

                                 Richard Eurich, "Eddistone Light" (1974)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Begin Afresh, Afresh, Afresh"

Because I am a creature of habit, I return to certain poems at the same time each year.  For instance, I read the following poem by Philip Larkin each May because, um, it takes place in May.  Plus, it is a very fine poem.  Plus, reading any poem by Philip Larkin will put a smile on your face and will make you feel that all is right with the world.  Well, almost any poem.  But don't ever let anyone tell you that he is a "gloomy" poet.  Nonsense.

                 The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old?  No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Philip Larkin, High Windows (Faber and Faber 1974).

                                       Paul Nash, "Granary" (1922-1923)

As I have noted before, the last line of "The Trees" reminds me of "The Region November" by Wallace Stevens.  (A poem that I read each -- yes -- November.)  Stevens's poem closes with these lines:

Deeplier, deeplier, loudlier, loudlier,
The trees are swaying, swaying, swaying.

Wallace Stevens, "Late Poems," Collected Poetry and Prose (The Library of America 1997).

                                     John Nash, "The Thunderstorm"

Monday, May 14, 2012

"The Stars, Like Silver Bees"

One of the delights of reading poetry is unexpectedly coming across a beautiful image and knowing -- as soon as you read it -- that you will never forget it. The image may occur in a poem that is otherwise nondescript. And the poem may have been written by someone who is not a "major" or a "well-known" poet.  These incidentals are of no moment.  The image is what matters.

Such is the case (for me, at least) with the image that appears at the end of the following poem by Mary Webb (1881-1927).  Webb is best known for her novels set in the countryside of Shropshire, but she wrote poetry as well.  The places named in the poem are all in Wales.

                                  James Dickson Innes, "Arenig" (c. 1911)

          The Mountain Tree

Montgomery's hills are deeply brown,
In Merioneth the sun goes down,
And all along the Land of Lleyn
The spate of night flows darkly in.

Come away to the mountain tree!
Cinnabar-red with fruit is she.
We'll watch the stars, like silver bees,
Fly to their hive beyond the seas.

Mary Webb, Fifty-one Poems (1946).

Sentimental?  Perhaps.  A bit like a fairy tale?  Perhaps.  But the final two lines are beautiful and unforgettable.  (Again, for me, at least.)

                       James Dickson Innes, "Arenig, North Wales" (1913)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"A Castle-Builder's World"

I shall depart from my foray into the subject of busybodyness (and its vanity) with a poem by Christina Rossetti.  Rossetti did not live to see the growth of social "science," with its attendant spawn of would-be utopians. However, the poets who dive (or dig) deepest into the human condition often anticipate what lies in store for us.  Thus, the following poem by Rossetti describes quite well the world of our current brood of busybodies and nannies.

                    Graham Bell, "Llysworney, Glamorganshire" (c. 1940)

            A Castle-Builder's World
"The line of confusion, and the stones 
                  of emptiness"

Unripe harvest there hath none to reap it
    From the misty gusty place,
Unripe vineyard there hath none to keep it
    In unprofitable space.
Living men and women are not found there,
    Only masks in flocks and shoals;
Flesh-and-bloodless hazy masks surround there,
    Ever wavering orbs and poles;
Flesh-and-bloodless vapid masks abound there,
    Shades of bodies without souls.

Christina Rossetti, Time Flies: A Reading Diary (1885).  The epigraph used by Rossetti is from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 34, Verse 11:  "But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness." Christina Rossetti, The Complete Poems (notes by Betty Flowers) (Penguin 2001), page 1056.

            Graham Bell, "Old Bridge, Bridgend, Glamorganshire" (c. 1940)

Anyone who gets the bright idea that he or she knows what is best for the rest of us (and thereupon sets out to change us for the "better") has, by virtue of this action, definitively demonstrated that he or she knows absolutely nothing about human nature.  Any castles that such misguided souls attempt to build are made of sand.  And, fortunately for the rest of us, the tide has never yet failed to come in.

                 Graham Bell, "Llannichangel, Glamorganshire" (c. 1940)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Be Assured, The Dragon Is Not Dead"

As an oblique follow-up to my previous post (or was it a rant?) regarding the perils of "analysis," "explanation," and "busybodyness," I offer the following poem by Robert Graves.  Graves is -- needless to say -- a million times more articulate and artful than I could ever hope to be.


Be assured, the Dragon is not dead
But once more from the pools of peace
Shall rear his fabulous green head.

The flowers of innocence shall cease
And like a harp the wind shall roar
And the clouds shake an angry fleece.

'Here, here is certitude,' you swore,
'Below this lightning-blasted tree.
Where once it struck, it strikes no more.

'Two lovers in one house agree.
The roof is tight, the walls unshaken.
As now, so must it always be.'

Such prophecies of joy awaken
The toad who dreams away the past
Under your hearth-stone, light forsaken,

Who knows that certitude at last
Must melt away in vanity --
No gate is fast, no door is fast --

That thunder bursts from the blue sky,
That gardens of the mind fall waste,
That fountains of the heart run dry.

Robert Graves, Poems 1914-1926 (1927).

                               Stephen Bone (1904-1958), "Ballantrae"

Given Graves's lifelong preoccupation with love, "Vanity" may simply be about the vagaries of human relationships.  However, I like to think that it has broader implications.  I find that people who display a great deal of "certitude" -- particularly about how the world ought to be -- are deluding themselves.  And are tiresome.  And are possibly dangerous (when they want to make their idea of Utopia yours as well, whether you like it or not).

Off the top of my head, only three certainties come to mind.  First: the World -- right now, this moment, as it is -- is paradise.  Second: we are all scheduled to depart from this paradise.  Third: there is a toad under the hearth-stone; be assured, the Dragon is not dead.

                                      Stephen Bone, "Arisaig" (1940s)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How To Live, Part Seventeen: "Balances"

I am skeptical of the human fondness for analysis and explanation.  Given what I have seen during my 50-odd years on Earth, my skepticism grows by the day.  For instance, each time some fresh horror (whether natural or man-made) occurs in the world, there is a rush to "analyze" and "explain" it.  As if we could change things.  As if there were something new under the sun.

There is a core of social engineering busybodyness to this enterprise that seems dismissive of both Nature and Human Nature.  (This busybodyness is exacerbated by the media and promoted by our ever-compassionate governments, which, of course, are always extremely concerned about the well-being of our souls.)  And here is the pay-off (or punch-line, as you wish):  the underlying premise of the enterprise is the belief that, by "analyzing" and "explaining" things, we (humanity) will make "progress."


                         Albert Rutherston, "The Pump, Nash End" (1931)


Because I see the world poisoned
by cant and brutal self-seeking,
must I be silent about
the useless waterlily, the dunnock's nest
in the hedgeback?

Because I am fifty-six years old
must I love, if I love at all,
only ideas -- not people, but only
the idea of people?

Because there is work to do, to steady
a world jarred off balance,
must a man meet only a fellow-worker
and never a man?

There are more meanings than those
in text books of economics
and a part of the worst slum
is the moon rising over it
and eyes weeping and
mouths laughing.

Norman MacCaig, in Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2009).  A note: a "dunnock" is also known as a hedge sparrow or a hedge warbler.

                                Cyril Deakins, "Suffolk Scarecrow" (1984)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"The Unwept Waste"

In his "Whisper of a Thin Ghost" (which appeared in my previous post),   A. S. J. Tessimond warns us against living life in a "Coat of Caution" and of heeding the advice of "the books of the Careful-Wise."  Easier said than done, of course.  Nonetheless, I can see what Tessimond is getting at.  The following poem provides, I think, a good companion-piece to "Whisper of a Thin Ghost," for it considers the cost of what-might-have-been.

       The Unwept Waste

Let funeral marches play,
Let heartbreak-music sound
For the half-death, not the whole;
For the unperceived slow soiling;
For the sleeping before evening;
For what, but for a breath,
But for an inch one way,
The shifting of a scene,
A closed or opened door,
A word less, a word more,
Might have, so simply, been.

The final tragedies are,
Not the bright light dashed out,
Not the gold glory smashed
Like a lamp upon the floor,
But the guttering away,
The seep, the gradual grey,
The unnoticed, without-haste-
Or-protest, premature,
Unwept, unwritten waste.

A. S. J. Tessimond, Voices in a Giant City (1947).

                                          Charles Mahoney (1903-1968)
               "Woodburner with Pink, Violet, and Red Flowers in a Vase"

I suppose that the "message" of this poem might be: carpe diem!  However, I'm not sure if it is that simple.  I detect a sense that these "half-deaths," these things missed by "a word less, a word more," might not have been salvageable by attempting to seize the day.  It may be that ending up with a certain amount of "unwept waste" is part of what it means to be human. But perhaps I am being too pessimistic.  Then again . . .

                                   Charles Mahoney, "The Plant Table"

Friday, May 4, 2012

How To Live, Part Sixteen: "Whisper Of A Thin Ghost"

A. S. J. Tessimond had a somewhat disenchanted view of the world. However, his outlook was softened by his humor, and by the fact that he did not exempt himself from his sometimes rueful assessment of how we try to make it through life.  In the following poem, Tessimond warns us of the danger of becoming a thin ghost.  I suspect that he was acquainted with this fate.

          Whisper of a Thin Ghost

I bought the books of the Careful-Wise
And I read the rules in a room apart
And I learned to clothe my flinching heart
Against hate and love and inquisitive eyes
In the Coat of Caution, the Shirt of Pride.
And then, the day before I died,
I found that the rules of the wise had lied:
That life was a blood-warm stream that ran
Through the fields of death, and that no man can
Bathe in the stream but the naked man.
And that is why my ghost now must
So grope, so grieve, as grieve all those
In whom death found no wounds to close,
In whom dust found no more than dust.

A. S. J. Tessimond, Voices in a Giant City (1947).

As is often the case with Tessimond's verse, the formal qualities of the poem are unobtrusive, perhaps because of the conversational tone.  Thus, one might not notice at first that "Whisper of a Thin Ghost" is a sonnet (with an uncommon rhyme scheme).

                         Marion Adnams, "Spring in the Cemetery" (1956)

"Whisper of a Thin Ghost" brings to mind Frank Ormsby's "My Careful Life," which I have previously posted.  For instance, these lines by Ormsby fit well with Tessimond's "books of the Careful-Wise" and "Coat of Caution":

But still my life cries: 'Work and save.
Rise early.  Stay home after five

and pull the curtains.  They are blessed
-- prudent, abstemious -- who resist.

All things in moderation.  Share
nothing.  Be seemly and austere.'

Frank Ormsby, A Northern Spring (The Gallery Press 1986).

                           Ernest Procter, "All the Fun of the Fair" (c. 1927)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"What Is It That Goes Round And Round The House?"

"Wolves" is one of Louis MacNeice's best-known and most-anthologized poems (it often appears in tandem with "Snow").  MacNeice wrote it in 1934 and it was published in 1935.  Hence, it is often viewed as a reflection of that dark decade and as a prescient view of what was to come.

This may be so.  But treating the poem merely as an artifact of the Thirties (although a particularly fine one) does not do it justice.  After all, the thought of wolves lurking in the dark woods goes far deeper than a specific historical period.  "Grandmother, what big teeth you have!"  And so on. Although MacNeice was certainly preoccupied with the events of his time (his early poetry often has a journalistic feel to it), I think that "Wolves" goes beyond current events.


I do not want to be reflective any more
Envying and despising unreflective things
Finding pathos in dogs and undeveloped handwriting
And young girls doing their hair and all the castles of sand
Flushed by the children's bedtime, level with the shore.

The tide comes in and goes out again, I do not want
To be always stressing either its flux or its permanence,
I do not want to be a tragic or philosophic chorus
But to keep my eye only on the nearer future
And after that let the sea flow over us.

Come then all of you, come closer, form a circle,
Join hands and make believe that joined
Hands will keep away the wolves of water
Who howl along our coast.  And be it assumed
That no one hears them among the talk and laughter.

Louis MacNeice, Poems (1935).

                          Eliot Hodgkin, "Leaves and Tubers" (1941-1942)

A poem that MacNeice wrote later in his life (in 1958) perhaps echoes what he may have been getting at in "Wolves," but without the historical context.

                            The Riddle

'What is it that goes round and round the house'
The riddle began.  A wolf, we thought, or a ghost?
Our cold backs turned to the chink in the kitchen shutter,
The range made our small scared faces warm as toast.

But now the cook is dead and the cooking, no doubt, electric,
No room for draught or dream, for child or mouse,
Though we, in another place, still put ourselves the question:
What is it that goes round and round the house?

Louis MacNeice, Solstices (1961).

                                 Eliot Hodgkin, "Undergrowth" (1941)