Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Outlived By Trees"

The idea of trees as revenants (of a sort) in Patrick Kavanagh's "Poplar Memory" (which appeared in my previous post) brings to mind a poem by Siegfried Sassoon.

            Outlived by Trees

A beech, a cedar, and a lime
Grow on my lawn, embodying time.
A lime, a cedar, and a beech
The transience of this lifetime teach.

Beech, cedar, lime, when I'm dead Me,
You'll stand, lawn-shadowing, tree by tree;
And in your greenery, while you last,
I shall survive who shared your past.

Siegfried Sassoon, Rhymed Ruminations (1940).

               Frank Ormond (1897-1988), "Moonrise, Stanford Dingley"

I presume that the beech, cedar, and lime were located on the grounds of Heytesbury House in Wiltshire, where Sassoon lived from 1934 until his death in 1967.  Sassoon's trees reappear in a poem that he wrote a decade later.  This time, however, the prospect of their survival -- and of the survival of part of him through them -- seems less certain.

                    A Proprietor

A meditative man
Walks in this wood, and calls each tree his own:
Yet the green track he treads is older than
Recorded English history:
His feet, while moving on towards times unknown,
Travel from traceless mystery.
Wondering what manner of men
Will walk there in the problem'd future when
Those trees he planted are long fallen or felled,
He twirls a white wild violet in his fingers
As others may when he's no more beheld,
Nor memory of him lingers.

Siegfried Sassoon, Emblems of Experience (1951).

We will always have a "problem'd future" ahead of us, won't we?  All the more reason to concentrate on the trees rather than the forest.

                                 Paul Nash, "The Orchard" (c. 1914-1917)


Suzie Grogan said...

I have been pointed to your blog by AManda White who already follows you. I t is wonderful! I too write on poetry (and all sorts of other random things) on my blog and the images you use are so inspirational alongside the texts I am envious! Many thanks

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms Grogan: I greatly appreciate your kind words. I'm happy that you found your way here, and I hope that you'll keep visiting. Thank you again.

Unknown said...

Just found this blog and there's some incredible material here, also beautifully laid out.
I am an admirer of Sassoon's work and pleased to see a writer focusing on his later poetry which tends to be very neglected.
I wonder if Edmund Blunden started to influence Sassoon in regard to some of his later poems- they were close friends

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Shankland: thank you very much for your kind words.

Yes, I agree that Sassoon's later work is neglected. I admire his war poems, but he wrote a great many fine poems in the years after that as well, which deserve a wider audience. The friendship of Sassoon and Blunden was wonderful, wasn't it? It may have been equally based upon a love of poetry and cricket, it seems! I'm sure you are familiar with Sassoon's poem "Blunden's Beech, " which is lovely.

Thank you again. I hope that you will return often.