Monday, July 29, 2013

"All Poetry Is In A Sense Love-Poetry"

John Clare and Edward Thomas were both inveterate ramblers of the countryside.  Hence, it is not surprising that their poetic paths sometimes cross.

                         Stone Pit

The passing traveller with wonder sees
A deep and ancient stone pit full of trees
So deep and very deep the place has been
The church might stand within and not be seen
The passing stranger oft with wonder stops
And thinks he een could walk upon their tops
And often stoops to see the busy crow
And stands above and sees the eggs below
And while the wild horse gives his head a toss
The squirrel dances up and runs across
The boy that stands and kills the black nosed bee
Dares down as soon as magpies nests are found
And wonders when he climbs the highest tree
To find it reaches scarce above the ground

John Clare, Major Works (edited by Eric Robinson and David Powell) (Oxford University Press 2004).  Spelling (e.g., "een" in line 6) and punctuation (or the lack thereof) are as they appear in Clare's original handwritten manuscript.

John Linnell, "Windsor Forest" (1834)

        The Hollow Wood

Out in the sun the goldfinch flits
Along the thistle-tops, flits and twits
Above the hollow wood
Where birds swim like fish --
Fish that laugh and shriek --
To and fro, far below
In the pale hollow wood.

Lichen, ivy, and moss
Keep evergreen the trees
That stand half-flayed and dying,
And the dead trees on their knees
In dog's-mercury and moss:
And the bright twit of the goldfinch drops
Down there as he flits on thistle-tops.

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

"Where birds swim like fish" is especially nice.

John Linnell, "Reapers, Noonday Rest" (1865)

In the course of a discussion of Clare's poetry, Thomas wrote this about poetry in general:

"It is the utterance of the human spirit when it is in touch with a world to which the affairs of 'this world' are parochial.  Hence the strangeness and thrill and painful delight of poetry at all times, and the deep response to it of youth and of love; and because love is wild, strange, and full of astonishment, is one reason why poetry deals so much in love, and why all poetry is in a sense love-poetry."

Edward Thomas, Feminine Influence on  the Poets (1910), pages 86-87.

I have previously posted Clare's poem "Love lives beyond the tomb," together with a fine commentary on it by Thomas.

John Linnell, "Harvest Home, Sunset: The Last Load" (1853)


Doug Miller said...

Nice. I myself aspire to be "in touch with a world to which the affairs of 'this world' are parochial." This seems to be the aim of the Romantics -- and can we say that of the feminine influence as well, or am I guessing incorrectly about Thomas' view?

To be in touch with a world to which "this world" is parochial. Yes. I'm struck, listening to descriptions of what are now called "happiness projects," that poets have had this as their subject all along. They see anew and take delight and tell us about it. (Leaving aside the exalters of death and the gloomy Gothics.) Can the "happiness projects" say more than poets have already said? (Sorry -- I should recall that comparisons are odious.)

Doug Miller

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Miller: yes, I'm in search of that world as well. Aren't we all? But, alas . . .

And what is this "happiness project" business? I've never heard of such a thing. It sounds frightening, to be honest. Although I have no idea what a "happiness project" is, I am extremely suspicious. I am also concerned about the well-being of anyone who is embarking upon a "happiness project." You'll never catch me setting forth on such a fool's errand.

It's always a pleasure to hear from you.