Thursday, March 31, 2011

"The Sun, Of Whose Terrain We Creatures Are": Charles Madge

As I have noted before, when Philip Larkin compiled The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse (1973), he had a knack for finding the best poems of lesser-known poets.  The following poem, which appears in the anthology, is by Charles Madge (1912-1996).  Madge was a "Thirties Poet," and his poems (as well as a prose piece related to his "Mass-Observation" project) appeared in Geoffrey Grigson's journal New Verse.

Madge's "Solar Creation" was published in 1937.  This is only speculation, but I wonder whether the poem was somewhere in the back of Larkin's mind when he wrote "Solar" in 1964.

                         Solar Creation

The sun, of whose terrain we creatures are,
Is the director of all human love,
Unit of time, and circle round the earth

And we are the commotion born of love
And slanted rays of that illustrious star
Peregrine of the crowded fields of birth,

The crowded lanes, the market and the tower
Like sight in pictures, real at remove,
Such is our motion on dimensional earth.

Down by the river, where the ragged are,
Continuous the cries and noise of birth,
While to the muddy edge dark fishes move

And over all, like death, or sloping hill,
Is nature, which is larger and more still.

Charles Madge, The Disappearing Castle (1937).

These days, we usually see "peregrine" in tandem with "peregrine falcon," but it does stand on its own.  The OED defines the word as "a pilgrim; a traveller in a foreign country.  Also: an emigrant; an exile."  A side-note:  although it may not be immediately apparent, the poem is a sonnet with an unusual rhyme-scheme.

                 Alfred Buckham, "Aerial View of Edinburgh" (c. 1920)  

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